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Texas Execution Moratorium Urged

February 20, 2000

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) _ Death-penalty opponents on Saturday increased their pressure on Gov. George W. Bush to declare a moratorium on executions in Texas, claiming the safeguards against wrongful convictions are inadequate.

Activists held a forum Saturday at the University of Texas and called for an end to capital punishment.

The organizers said they saw new hope for their cause after Illinois Gov. George Ryan last month said there would be no executions until he finds out why more death sentences in Illinois have been overturned than carried out.

``Those cases put a face on the death penalty,″ said Carl Villarreal, an organizer for Campaign to End the Death Penalty.

Meanwhile, victim rights activists said people who are sentenced to death are protected by a fair legal system that includes adequate appellate review.

``We do everything that we can to make sure they have incredible protection,″ said Dudley Sharp of Justice for All, a victims’ rights group in Houston.

But the activists gathered Saturday said there is little protection for the wrongly accused in Texas, where Bush has overseen 119 executions. Since resumption of capital punishment in the 1980s, Texas has conducted 206 executions.

``Texas is in a much worse position than Illinois as far as safeguards for innocent people are concerned, especially if they are indigents,″ Villarreal said. ``Texas ranks first in the number of executions and first in prisons. This is a record that Governor Bush should be ashamed of.″

Two Texas convicts are scheduled to receive lethal injections next week, including Betty Lou Beets, who was convicted of killing her husband in 1983.

Nationwide, 85 death row inmates have been freed since 1973, according to the Washington-based Death Penalty Information Center.

Supporters of capital punishment say the process is fair.

``If these people were truly concerned about the innocent, which I don’t believe they are, they would be trying to stop parole and probation,″ Sharp said.

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