Highlights of the struggle

Austin, TX

By: Jason Kyriakides

Since the beginning of summer, the Austin, Texas, CEDP Chapter has been increasing the pressure on the death-hungry Texas government to abolish it. We focused primarily on two cases: the Yogurt Shop Murder case from Austin and the Jeff Wood case from San Antonio.

In the Yogurt Shop case, new trials are being scheduled for Michael Scott and Robert Springsteen, who were convicted for murder on the basis of coerced confessions.

The Austin chapter held a series of events to support the Yogurt Shop defendants. We held a protest and press conference on May 27 at the Texas Travis County Courthouse; a silent picket there on July 15; and a panel of speakers about the failed Texas "justice" system at a local bookstore on August 4. About 20 newcomers attended the panel, all of whom listened intently to Jeannine Scott, wife of Michael Scott; Lawrence, grandfather of former Texas death row prisoner Kenneth Foster (whose sentence wanted to life); Sandra Reed, mother of Texas death row prisoner Rodney Reed; Delia Perez Myer, sister of Texas death row prisoner Louis Castro Perez; and Nydesha Foster, an amazing speaker and daughter of Kenneth Foster. The event was part of a series called Beyond the Bars: Local Struggles Against the Prison Industrial Complex, hosted by Monkey Wrench Books in preparation for the Critical Resistance conference in Oakland, CA, September 26-28.

On June 3, the Austin CEDP protested the execution of Derrick Sonnier, the first man to be executed in Texas since the recent de facto national moratorium on executions in light of the Supreme Court's review of lethal injection. To the surprise of everyone there, Derrick was granted a stay of execution 90 minutes before his scheduled time, due to an appeal filed by his lawyers on the legality of execution procedures. But only a little over a week later, on June 11, Texas executed Karl Chamberlain. The CEDP and several other organizations again held a small but determined protest outside the Texas State Capitol Building, but Karl was executed a few minutes after 6PM.

In June, CEDP became involved in the Jeff Wood case. Jeff Wood is a mentally ill man who was tried under the Texas Law of Parties, like Kenneth Foster--permitting a death sentence despite the fact that he did not murder anyone. Jeff Wood was scheduled with an August 2008 execution date. Members took part in press conferences and marches for Jeff Wood. Needless to say, we were thrilled when Wood was granted a stay of execution.

CEDP Austin plans another Yogurt Shop event for September 13, when it will march from the Travis County DA's office to City Hall, coinciding with a new hearing for the defendants.

Finally, congratulations to CEDP Member Hooman Hedayati, who was named Campus Progress M.V.P. Award Winner in July for organizing the Anti-Death Penalty Spring Break with Texas Students Against the Death Penalty in Austin for four years in a row.