11th & Lavaca
Austin, Texas 78701

Johnny Conner is scheduled for execution on August 22, 2007.

Urge Governor Perry to stop the execution of Johnny Conner on August 22, 2007.

The Houston Chronicle has an article in today's paper that casts doubt on whether Texas should carry out the execution of Johnny Conner on August 22. Conner's execution would be the 400th since Texas resumed using the death penalty in 1982 after an 18 year moratorium.

It would be emblematic of the many problems in the Texas death penalty system if the 400th execution is carried out despite the issues in the case that the Chronicle article brings up, including ineffective assistance of counsel during Conner's trial that could have resulted in a conviction based on faulty witness identification of Conner as the perpetrator.

From the Chronicle:

Three people identified Johnny Ray Conner as the man they saw running from a north Houston grocery store after 49-year-old Kathyanna Nguyen was fatally shot in May 1998. During Conner's trial, none of the witnesses mentioned the gunman had a limp.

But, then again, none of them was asked.

A federal judge in 2005 ruled that Conner deserved another trial because his defense attorneys failed to investigate Conner's medical record. His trial attorneys said they never noticed Conner limp and he only mentioned the issue in passing and never to dispute the witnesses' testimony. The 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals overturned the federal judge's decision without addressing the attorneys' performance. Now the issue rests with the Supreme Court.

If the high court lets the ruling stand, Conner on Wednesday will become the 101st Harris County inmate to be put to death since 1982. He declined to be interviewed.

Customer saw robbery
During the May 19, 1998, robbery, the gunman stuffed a revolver into the small opening of the store's counter, surrounded by bulletproof glass, and demanded money from Nguyen. There was no escape for Nguyen, who owned the business. She died from three gunshot wounds to the head. A customer, Julian Gutierrez, who interrupted the robbery was also shot, but he survived.

"I heard somebody say, 'Give me all your money!' " Gutierrez testified at Conner's trial. "He was pointing a gun at Kathyanna Nguyen and had his hand all the way inside the booth. She was shaking."

Gutierrez was shot in the shoulder when he turned to run.

The gunman was seen by six witnesses, three of whom identified Conner as Nguyen's killer.

Conflicting testimony
Conner said he told his attorneys before the trial about a broken leg he suffered a year before the shootings that led to a condition known as "foot drop." Weakened muscles around his right shin made him shuffle his right foot forward to walk.

No medical testimony about the injury was presented at this trial.

But other evidence may have been too much to overcome.

Conner's fingerprint was lifted from a plastic orange juice bottle police found near the store's cash register. The bottle does not appear in police photos of the crime scene — a point hammered by the defense during the trial. Conner told his attorneys he was at the store hours before the holdup.

Although three witnesses, including Gutierrez, picked Conner's mugshot from a photo spread, all of them gave inconsistent descriptions. None of them mentioned seeing the teardrop tattoo on his face.

Gutierrez told police the gunman was wearing white tennis shoes, brown shorts, a white T-shirt and a red cap. Another witness, who saw the gunman running down the street, said he wore dark shorts and no hat. A third witness, who saw the gunman as she drove along Fulton, said he wore jeans, tennis shoes and no hat.

Conner's appellate attorneys persuaded U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore to conduct a hearing about Conner's ineffective assistance of counsel claim.

"The state had him videotaped walking in the prison, unbeknownst to him that he was being videotaped, and it shows he has a limp," said Robert Rosenberg, who argued Conner's case during the hearing.

Ricardo Rodriguez and his co-counsel Jonathan Munier never noticed Conner with a limp during his trial. Rodriguez testified during the hearing that Conner told him "I broke my leg, but I'm fine now. I went for therapy."

"The defense attorneys failed to conduct a reasonable investigation that would permit them to make a reasonable choice among trial strategies," said Jim Marcus, a University of Texas School of Law professor who filed a petition with the Supreme Court about Conner's case. "That's no way to make an informed decision."
Urge Governor Perry to stop the execution of Johnny Conner on August 22, 2007.

Visit Texas Moratorium Network for more information about the Texas Death Penalty.

Come to the Governor's Mansion in Austin or one of the protests sites in the list of cities below to protest the Texas death penalty every time there is a scheduled execution.

Statewide Execution Vigils

Huntsville - Corner of 12th Street and Avenue I (in front of the Walls Unit) at 5:00 p.m.

Austin - At the Governor's Mansion on the Lavaca St. side between 10th and 11th St. from 5:30 to 6:30 PM.

Beaumont - Diocese of Beaumont, Diocesan Pastoral Office, 703 Archie St. @ 4:00 p.m. on the day of an execution.

College Station - 5:30 to 6 PM, east of Texas A &M campus at the corner of Walton and Texas Ave. across the street from the main entrance.

Corpus Christi - at 6 PM in front of Incarnate Word Convent at 2910 Alameda Street

Dallas - 5:30 pm, at the SMU Women's Center, 3116 Fondren Drive

Houston - 5:30 to 6:20 at the Dominican Sisters Mother House at 6501 Almeda Rd. (corner of Almeda and Holcombe), Parking is accessible from Almeda Rd.

Lewisville - St. Philip the Apostle Catholic Church, 1897 W. Main Street. Peace & Justice Ministry conducts Vigils of Witness Against Capital Punishment at 6:00 pm on the day executions are scheduled in Texas.

McKinney - St. Gabriel the Archangel Catholic Community located at 110 St. Gabriel Way. We gather the last Saturday of the month between 6:00 to 6:30 to pray for those men/women scheduled to be executed in the next month and to remember the victims, their families, and all lives touched, including us as a society.

San Antonio (Site 1)
- Archdiocese of San Antonio, in the St. Joseph Chapel at the Chancery, 2718 W. Woodlawn Ave. (1 mile east of Bandera Rd.) at 11:30 a.m. on the day of execution. Broadcast on Catholic Television of San Antonio (Time-Warner cable channel 15) at 12:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on the day of execution.

San Antonio (Site 2) - Main Plaza across from Bexar County Courthouse and San Fernando Cathedral - Noon

Spring - Prayer Vigil at 6 PM on evenings of executions at St Edward Catholic
Community, 2601 Spring Stuebner Rd for the murder victim, for family
and friends of the murder victim, the prison guards and correctional officers, for the family
of the condemn man/woman, for the man/woman to be executed and to an end to the death

Official Website: http://stopexecutions.blogspot.com

Added by niris on July 1, 2007

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