StandDown Texas Project

The StandDown Texas Project identifies and advocates best practices in the criminal justice system. To stand down is to go off duty temporarily, especially to review safety procedures. That is what Texas needs to do with its death penalty.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

U.S. Supreme Court Rebukes Texas Again

Courts generally use very deferential language. Yesterday's ruling by the Supreme Court overturning a Texas death sentence is unusually blunt in it's criticism that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals are not following prior rulings by the high Court.

The matter was so clear to the Supreme Court that it did not even hold oral arguments in the case.

The Times article is linked above. The opinion is here.

The Topic Is Innocence

Today's Christian Science Monitor picks up where the Texas Poll left off. Problems with the HPD Crime Lab and recent exonerations are causing people to re-examine how well the criminal justict system is working.

The Monitor article is here.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Texas Poll Shows Increased Concerns by Texans

The Scripps Howard Texas Poll shows continued growth of concern by Texans about the state's administration of the death penalty. The most recent poll shows that 70 % of those surveyed believe the state has executed innocent people. The poll also shows that 44 % believe a moratorium on executions is necessary now, along with a blue ribbon commission to examine what's wrong.

Here is a link to the Houston Chronicle's story with more details:

Death Sentences and Executions Decrease Nationally

According to a U.S. Department of Justice study, the number of death sentences handed out by juries has hit a 30 year low nationally. Also, the number of executions has been generally declining since 1999.

The Houston Chronicle story on the report can be viewed at:

You can view the entire report on the DoJ website:

Texas remains the state with far and away the most executions. To date, Texas has carried out 335 executions since resumption of the death penalty, 35% of the nation's 942 executions. So far this year, Texas has carried out 22 of the nation's 57 executions.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Clemency Petition Seeks Time for Investigation

Frances Newton, an African-American from Houston, is scheduled to be executed by Texas on December 1. David Dow, Director of the Texas Innocence Network at the University of Houston Law Center, has filed a clemency petition with the Board of Pardons and Paroles asking for a 120 day reprieve to allow time for an investigation in the case.

To view the Houston Chronicle's article, go to:

At the heart of Newton's case is ballistics analysis conducted by the HPD crime lab. Newton has always maintained her innocence. HPD Chief Harold Hurtt has already called for a moratorium on executions from Harris County due to problems with the lab.

This will be a story to watch as it develops.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Texas Monthly Examines CCA

The November 2004 Texas Monthly has a detailed article on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, titled 'And Justice For Some.'

'Over the past ten years, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has disregarded exculpatory DNA evidence, threats of torture, bad lawyering, and in some cases, all common sense to uphold convicitions in keeping with its tough-on-crime philosophy. Why should toughness steamroll fairness?', the article asks.

You can read the complete article at:

A web extra interview with author Michael Hall is available at TM's homepage,