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Proposed Austin City Council Resolution Calling for a Moratorium on Executions

WHEREAS, it is not only the right, but the duty, of local governments, to advise the Governor
and Legislature on matters of concern to them when the action of the state directly affects cities
and counties; and

WHEREAS Texas leads the nation in executions with 423 since 1982; and

WHEREAS there is a significant risk that innocence cases in Texas are not being discovered, and
that innocent persons both reside on death row and could be wrongly executed in a system of
capital punishment that often escapes governmental scrutiny and meaningful judicial review; and

WHEREAS the frequency of executions and inadequacies in our criminal justice system increase
the risk that an innocent person will be executed; and

WHEREAS, the execution of an innocent person by the State of Texas would be a grave
injustice and would undermine public confidence in our criminal justice system; and

WHEREAS The Houston Chronicle reported on November 19, 2005 that a San Antonio man
named Ruben Cantu may have been innocent of the crime for which he was executed on August
24, 1993; and

WHEREAS The Chicago Tribune reported on December 9, 2004 that a Corsicana, Texas man
named Cameron Todd Willingham may have been innocent of the crime for which he was
executed on February 17 2004; and

WHEREAS The Chicago Tribune reported on June 24, 2006 that a Corpus Christi man named
Carlos De Luna may have been innocent of the crime for which he was executed on December 7
1989; and

WHEREAS nine (9) innocent people have been exonerated and released from Texas Death Row.
Ernest Willis was released from Texas Death Row on October 6, 2004 after spending 17 years
there for a crime he did not commit. 130 people have been exonerated and released from death
rows in the United States since the death penalty was reinstated in the 1970's; and

WHEREAS, the death penalty has consistently been demonstrated to cost more than life without
parole; and

WHEREAS, Texas has applied the “Law of Parties” to unjustly sentence people to death
including Kenneth Foster Jr, Jeff Wood and others who did not kill anyone or intend that anyone
be killed; and
WHEREAS, there is public concern in Austin that racial and socio-economic factors influence
the decisions to seek or impose the death penalty in Texas; and

WHEREAS death sentences in Texas are given almost exclusively to the poor;

WHEREAS there are indications of racial bias in the application of the death penalty in Texas.
For instance, according to the 2000 census, African Americans are only 11.5 percent of the
population of Texas, yet 40.2 percent of people on death row in Texas are African Americans;

WHEREAS, nationally, over 80% of completed capital cases involve white victims even though
only 50% of murder victims are white; and

WHEREAS, there is a lack of any meaningful procedure to ensure uniform application of the
death penalty from county to county throughout the state; and

WHEREAS at least twelve major newspapers in Texas, including the Dallas Morning News and
the Austin American-Statesman, have called for both a moratorium on executions in Texas and
abolition of the death penalty; and

WHEREAS local taxpayers can be faced with the financial burden of settling lawsuits when
innocent people are wrongfully convicted or executed because of problems in the criminal justice
system; and

WHEREAS many city councils around the country have already passed moratorium resolutions,
including Atlanta; Baltimore; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; Oakland; Detroit; Cincinnati; New York
City; Buffalo; Tucson; Chapel Hill, Charlotte, Fayetteville, Winston-Salem, Greensboro, and
Durham, North Carolina; Lexington and Charlottesville, Virginia; and Hays, Texas; and

WHEREAS the Travis County Commissioners Court and the El Paso County Commissioners
Court have both already passed resolutions calling for a moratorium on executions in Texas; and

WHEREAS, this resolution is not to criticize in any way the excellent work by particular
individuals in the state, including District Attorneys and law enforcement officers, especially
those in Austin; nor is it to minimize the profound pain that the families of murder victims
suffer; and

BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED that the Austin City Council recommends to the Governor
and Texas Legislature that the State of Texas should enact a moratorium on executions and
create a “Texas Capital Punishment Commission” to study the administration of capital
punishment in Texas to correct any injustices or unfair processes that are found in the
administration of the death penalty and to study how to eliminate the risk of innocent people
being convicted and executed.

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