Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles today voted to recommend that the death sentence of Robert Thompson be commuted to life.
November 18, 2009
Dear Texas Moratorium Network Supporter,
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles today voted to recommend that the death sentence of Robert Thompson be commuted to life. Thompson's execution is scheduled for tomorrow, Thursday, November 19. Governor Perry will be deciding tonight or tomorrow morning whether to accept the recommendation and grant clemency to Thompson. Perry could accept or reject the recommendation from the BPP.
Call the Governor and leave a voice message at 512 463 1782 or email him through his website at here - Urge him to accept the recommendation of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to grant Robert Thompson clemency and commute his sentence to life.
Thompson was sentenced to death under the Law of Parties even though he did not kill the victim. Thompson's accomplice fired the bullet that killed the victim. The accomplice received life in prison.
During the 2009 session of the Texas Legislature, the Texas House of Representatives passed a bill that would have banned executions of people convicted solely under the Law of Parties for people who do not actually kill anyone. The bill died in the Senate, but its passage in the House showed that many legislators want Texas to stop executing people convicted under the Law of Parties.
If Thompson's execution is commuted, then other people sentenced to death under the Law of Parties could also be commuted in the future, including Jeff Wood.
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, in a highly unusual vote, recommended a convicted murderer set to die Thursday for his part in the fatal shooting of Houston convenience store clerk have his sentence commuted to life in prison.
The board's action Wednesday, on a 5-2 vote, leaves the decision on whether Robert Lee Thompson lives or dies with Gov. Rick Perry.
Thompson, 34, was condemned under the Texas law of parties for being an accomplice when Mansoor Bhai Rahim Mohammed, 29, was gunned down 13 years ago.
Thompson's partner, Sammy Butler, received a life prison term. Thompson got death.
"This is hugely significant," Patrick McCann, Thompson's lawyer, said. "I'm thrilled... Whatever gets my guy to a life sentence I'm thrilled with."
Perry's office had no immediate response. The governor is not required to follow the recommendation of the board, whose members he appoints.
Thompson was set to die after 6 p.m. Thursday.
"I spoke with his office of general counsel and his representative there, and they couldn't tell me when he would make his decision," McCann said.
In his clemency request, McCann compared Thompson's case to that of Kenneth Foster, another inmate condemned under the law of parties.
Two years ago, Foster won a commutation recommendation from the parole board. Perry agreed and Foster now is serving a life sentence. Prison officials said it's the last time a Texas governor commuted a death row inmate's sentence to life in prison.
Perry's explanation for commuting Foster was that Foster and his co-defendant were tried together on capital murder charges for a slaying in San Antonio. In Thompson's case, he and Butler were tried separately in Houston.
At least a half dozen other Texas inmates have been executed under the law of parties.
Under the law, offenders conspiring to commit one felony like robbery can all be held responsible for another ensuing crime, like murder.
The U.S. Supreme Court since 1982 has barred the death penalty for co-conspirators who don't themselves kill. The justices, however, in 1987 made an exception, ruling the Eighth Amendment didn't prohibit execution of someone who plays a major role in a felony that results in murder and whose mental state is one of reckless indifference.
McCann also has an appeal before the Supreme Court raising questions about the competence of Thompson's trial lawyers, arguing jurors who decided Thompson should be executed never learned of his abusive childhood, an upbringing by a mentally ill and drug- and alcohol-addicted mother and a household where he was "raised in and among felons."
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