Ex-death row inmates to take on Harris County’s sentencing record
By ALLAN TURNER
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle
Former death row inmates Clarence Brandley and Kerry Max Cook will be keynote speakers Saturday at a Houston anti-death penalty march and rally expected to draw protesters from throughout the state and nation.
Normally held in Austin, the march, now in its eighth year, was moved to Houston to protest Harris County juries’ record of leading the nation in assessing death sentences, said event organizer Gloria Rubac. Since executions were resumed 25 years ago, 102 killers from Harris County have been executed; 122 remain on death row.
The March to Stop Executions will assemble at 2 p.m. at Emancipation Park, 3018 Dowling, then proceed to SHAPE Center, 3815 Live Oak, for a 3:30 p.m. rally.
The theme of the event is “Celebrating Our Victories, Remembering Our Losses; Continuing the Fight for Abolition!”
Brandley, who was convicted of the August 1980 rape-murder of Cheryl Dee Ferguson, a 16-year-old volleyball player at Conroe High School, spent a decade on death row before prosecutors dropped charges against him. Investigators’ failure to compare a Caucasian hair found on Ferguson’s body with that of other possible suspects in the case was among presumed irregularities in the case cited by Brandley’s advocates.
At the conclusion of an evidentiary hearing in October 1987, state District Judge Perry Picket called on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to grant Brandley a new trial. “The litany of events graphically described by the witnesses, some of it chilling and shocking, leads me to the conclusion the pervasive shadow of darkness has obscured the light of fundamental decency and human rights,” he wrote.
After unsuccessfully appealing to stop a new trial, the prosecution dropped charges in October 1990.
Cook spent 22 years on death row after he was convicted of the 1977 rape-murder of Linda Jo Edwards, a Tyler woman. He was tried three times and twice condemned. After he won a new trial in 1993, Cook was freed from prison based on time served after he entered a no contest plea. Months later, DNA linked Edwards’ murder to another man.
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