EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index: AMR 51/102/94
EXTRA 77/94 Death Penalty 16 December 1994
USA (Texas) Jesse JACOBS, white
Jesse Jacobs is due to be executed on 4 January 1995. He was convicted of
murder and sentenced to death in May 1987 for the fatal shooting of Etta Ann
Urdiales, the estranged wife of his sister's boyfriend.
Jesse Jacobs was convicted on the basis of a pre-trial confession to police
in which he stated he had shot and killed the victim. However, Jacobs recanted
this confession at trial and told the court that he had abducted Ms Urdiales
at his sister's request as she wanted a meeting with her, and that his sister
had shot Ms Uriales inside an abandoned house while he was outside; he claimed
he had not known that the victim would be shot, or even that his sister had
a gun. The jury rejected his testimony, and accepted the state's evidence
of Jacobs' confession.
Jacobs' sister, Bobbie Hogan, was subsequently tried for the same crime, and
was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in January 1988. According to
petitions submitted by Jacob's attorneys, the state conceded at Hogan's trial
that it was she who had shot the victim and that Jacobs had not anticipated
Appeals were subsequently submitted in Jacob's case, based on the evidence
which the state had accepted in Hogan's trial, and which cast serious doubt
on the validity of Jacobs' conviction for capital murder. Under Texas and
US law, an accomplice to a felony which results in someone's death cannot be
sentenced to death for murder if it is established that they had not intended
or anticipated that the killing would take place. However, appeals on this
issue to date have been denied, most recently by the Fifth Circuit Court of
Appeals on 1 September 1994. The courts have held that the issues raised are
not a matter for state or federal habeas corpus relief, but should properly
be addressed by the Governor's powers of pardon or commutation. A petition
for review of Jacobs' case is currently pending before the United States Supreme
Court, arguing that Jacobs deserves a new trial because his conviction and
sentence of death are unreliable in light of the evidence produced and the
admissions made by the state at Hogan's trial.
Amnesty International is currently seeking more information from the record
of this case about the very disturbing claim that Jacobs may not be guilty
of capital murder.
Amnesty International is deeply concerned at the number of executions being
carried out in the USA in general, and in Texas in particular. Of the 257
executions carried out in the USA since the death penalty was resumed in the
mid 1970s, 85 have been carried out in Texas.
In Texas, the governor may commute a sentence of death only if she receives
a favourable recommendation from the Board of Pardons and Paroles. The Board
consistently refuses to hold full clemency hearings in death penalty cases,
and apart from a number of commutations granted in the 1980s as the result
of two key court rulings, the Board has never recommended clemency in any death
penalty case in recent years.