UA: 118/10 Index: AMR 51/043/2010 USA Date: 18 May 2010
TEXAS EXECUTION SET 32 YEARS AFTER CONVICTION
David Lee Powell is scheduled to be executed in the US state of Texas on 15 June for the
murder of a police officer committed more than three decades ago. David Powell, who was 27
years old at the time of the crime, is now aged 59.
Officer Ralph Ablanedo was shot dead in the state capital, Austin, in May 1978. David Powell was convicted of his
murder in October 1978. He was sentenced to death according to Texas law, which stipulates that in order for such
a sentence to be passed, a jury must decide that it is probable that he would commit future acts of criminal violence
that would constitute a continuing threat to society. In 1989, the US Supreme Court overturned the conviction and
death sentence (see over). David Powell was retried in 1991 and again sentenced to death. In 1994, this sentence
was overturned by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals because of an error in the judge's instructions to the jury.
In 1999, a new sentencing hearing was held. As evidence of David Powell’s future dangerousness, the prosecution
relied primarily on the facts of the crime committed over two decades earlier. It also presented evidence that in
1970, when Powell was a teenager (he was now approaching 50), he had stolen a car and used false identification.
The prosecution also sought to boost its case by pointing to evidence that he had broken rules in prison: all were
minor infractions spread thinly over the years since his conviction, such as having an extra pair of socks and shorts
in his cell; not making his bed before 6am; playing his radio too loud; cursing at a guard when he was not allowed to
have contact lens solution; and refusing to obey an order to remove a poster from the wall of his cell.
The defence presented evidence that before David Powell started using drugs at university, he had been a law-
abiding promising student. His drug use led to increasing paranoia and irrational behaviour, leading up to the crime.
After he stopped using drugs, once he was in prison, he returned to something like his former self, and several
prison guards testified that he was a model inmate. Nevertheless, the jury decided that he would pose a danger to
society if allowed to live, even in prison, and sentenced him to death for a third time. His current lawyer has told
Amnesty International that David Powell “is not the same person he was in May 1978. He is now (and has been for
a long time) remorseful, humble, steadfastly non-violent, and a positive role-model”.
In 1999, a US Supreme Court judge wrote that the longer the delay between conviction and execution, "the weaker
the justification for imposing the death penalty in terms of punishment’s basic retributive and deterrent purposes."
In 2002, the same judge noted that the uncertainty and lengthy delays between sentencing and execution "can
inflict horrible feelings and an immense mental anxiety amounting to a great increase of the offender’s punishment."
PLEASE WRITE IMMEDIATELY in English or your own language, in your own words (include inmate No: #000612):
Explaining that you are not seeking to excuse the killing of Austin Police Officer Ralph Ablanedo;
Noting that more than three decades have passed since the crime, calling into further question any assertion by
the state that retribution or deterrence will be served by this execution;
Noting evidence of David Powell’s rehabilitation, in contrast to the jury’s finding of “future dangerousness”;
Calling on the Parole Board to recommend that Governor Rick Perry commute David Powell’s death sentence;
Calling on the District Attorney of Travis County to move to have the execution date withdrawn, and not reset.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 15 JUNE 2010 TO:
Clemency Section, Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles
8610 Shoal Creek Blvd. Austin, TX 78757-6814, USA
Fax (512) 467-0945
Salutation: Dear Board members
District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg
Travis County District Attorney’s Office
PO Box 1748, Austin, TX 78767, USA
Fax: +1 512 854-9695
Salutation: Dear District Attorney
Also send copies to diplomatic representatives of the USA accredited to your country. Please check with your section office if
sending appeals after the above date.