For Immediate Release
November 8, 2023
Contact: Ellic Sahualla, (915) 667-2634
Texas to Execute Man Mistakenly Given Death Penalty
El Paso—Brent Brewer is scheduled for execution tomorrow, November 9, 2023. One of the jurors who sentenced him to death, Michele Douglas, has since criticized the trial’s misleading jury instructions that led her to mistakenly vote for death when she supported a sentence of life in prison instead. She recently described her experience in a piece for the Houston Chronicle. “Believing—incorrectly—that my vote was meaningless, I acquiesced in the majority’s death penalty verdict,” she wrote. “I cried when it was read in court. I was haunted afterwards.”
Texas State Representative Joe Moody (D–El Paso), a leading voice in Texas criminal justice reform, has repeatedly filed a bill to eliminate the misleading and confusing instructions used in Brewer’s trial. The most recent version, House Bill 188, passed the Texas House of Representatives by a supermajority vote of 144-4 with more than one month left in the legislative session but was not referred to committee in the Texas Senate.
Moody criticized the lack of action on the measure in light of Brewer's case: “It’s unbelievable that we’re executing a man when one of the very people who made the decision was misled. What’s worse is that this isn’t the first time this has happened. Texans have been and are continuing to be sentenced to die by confusion rather than conscience. If we’re going to give jurors the power of life and death, we have to also be honest with them and allow them to make their decision fairly.
“The House has repeatedly heard bipartisan testimony from across the political spectrum demanding a change in these procedures, which I believe actively misstate the law to disempower jurors. The fact that a bill making such a simple but crucial change can’t even get a hearing in the Senate despite nearly universal support should shock Texas voters. There’s nothing political about this—it’s about whether the awesome power of the government to take a life is given to it knowingly rather than by what amounts to trickery.
“This simply can’t continue; it’s morally wrong. I call on leaders in both parties and both chambers to pass this legislation swiftly at the next possible opportunity.”
Moody chairs the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence and is co-chair and founder of the bipartisan Criminal Justice Reform Caucus.