Voices Raised to Spare David Lee Powell

Letters to District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg and Governor Rick Perry
Tassos Rigopoulos
Sally Norvell (II)
Frances Morey
Howard Hawhee
Emilie Farenthold (September 2009)
Harvey Grossman
Emilie Farenthold (June 2010)
Kristen Dean
Sister Helen Prejean
Kathy Doyle
John Y. Harper
David Walker
Chris Edwards
Letter via Congress.org
Leslie Pilder
Jana Carter
Jude Filler
Aliza Appel
Ryan Ellison
Sally Norvell (I)
Baldrich Mouanda
Heinz Leitner
Vik Bahl
Sylvie Calvet

Articles, Blogs, Appeals, Reports, Letters to Editor, Other
David van Os
Galia Harrington (II)
Sally Norvell (II)
Frances Morey
Tom Blackwell
Jude Filler
Deathwatch-Stardoll Blog
Amnesty International
Robert Leleux
Luke Redfield
Lucinda Williams
Michael King
Sarah Hickman
Larry Bethune
Galia Harrington (I)
Sally Norvell (I)

Tassos Rigopoulos


Dear Ms. Lehmberg,

I am writing to you regarding death row inmate David Powell, who is about to be executed on June 15. I wanted to give you my personal impressions of Mr. Powell and explain why I believe he should be allowed to live.

I first got in contact with David Powell in 1995. At the time, I was a graduate student at the Radio, Television and Film Department of the University of Texas. I was in the process of filming my thesis film, a documentary on capital punishment entitled Texas and the Death Penalty. The main problem I was facing was getting permission to interview a death row inmate. I had been recommended several people, but it was virtually impossible to get past their attorneys. A common acquaintance mentioned Mr. Powell, who had been moved to the Travis County jail from death row, awaiting retrial. We started communicating by phone: he would call me collect once a day and we would chat for the maximum time permitted.

The first few weeks were tentative for both of us. I could sense that Mr. Powell was cautious of the media. Soon however, he warmed up to me, and over time, he gave me tremendously useful information on life on death row, its daily routine, the psychological repercussions of being sentenced to death, etc. Mr. Powell also gave me great ideas on how to structure the film, what to emphasize on, who else to interview, etc. He proved to be an articulate, highly intelligent, well-read, kind, compassionate and humorous person. Eventually, and after a year on the phone, Mr. Powell agreed to an on-camera interview.

In our long videotaped conversation, David Powell gave a vivid account of life in the Walls Unit that truly made a tremendous difference in the finished piece. One could see in Mr. Powell's face the devastation, the unbearable burden of guilt. One could also see his humanity, his dignity and his burning desire to redeem himself. He granted me the interview knowing that I could manipulate the footage to make him look like a monster; his appeals process could have been irrevocably compromised. He trusted me, however, and I was deeply grateful for his generosity. Without his presence and overall contribution my film would only be a theoretical and dry presentation. Mr. Powell gave my film gravitas and power.

Texas and the Death Penalty went on to win over 10 national and international awards and distinctions, including the Student Television Academy Award (student Emmy) in 1997 and the 1998 Silver Gavel Award by the American Bar Association. It was broadcast on television both here and in Europe and was directly responsible for my getting those crucial first jobs in professional film and television production.

Truly, if I am currently able to make a living for my family and myself as a filmmaker and film teacher in New York City, it is mostly thanks to David Powell. Because of how much he has helped me, because of the debt of gratitude I owe him, I know that his execution will devastate me. I will not be alone: Many will mourn his execution, many will miss him dearly. This is because even from the confines of his cell, Mr. Powell has been able to be a mentor and a teacher to many, both imprisoned and free. He has helped many inmates by teaching them how to read and write, or how to understand law and criminal justice. To people outside prison, such as myself and many others, he has been a wise guide, a true and thoughtful friend over the years. I cannot help but wonder: is the image that so many of us have of David Powell really the image of someone who is a danger to society?

David Powell committed a terrible crime killing officer Ralph Ablanedo, a father just like me. However, David Powell the murderer does not exist anymore. It is clear to me that on June 15 the state of Texas will be executing a reformed man, a completely different person. The fact that he has no history of violent infractions of any kind during his 32-year death row life is quite telling. As he stated in my film, living under sentence of death made him turn inwards and practice intense self -examination. He has been trying to redeem himself by helping others, year after year. How many free men and women can claim to be as giving or influential?

What David Powell did in 1978 did cannot be excused. I know that every day he relives and deeply regrets the act of hubris he committed. I believe that having to live with his guilt in the confines of the prison system is a most severe and just punishment. I implore you to spare his life. That way, David Powell will be allowed to continue his efforts to redeem himself by positively influencing people, just as he helped me and so many like me.


Tassos Rigopoulos


Sally Norvell (II)

Dear Rosemary,

Do you think that if Marjorie Powell and Betsey Ablanedo were in a room together, that this execution of David Powell would have any chance of proceeding?

Please give the family a chance at reconciliation. Putting David in the ground will only end the legal process. Give the Ablanedo family the chance to share humanity with the Powells.

Please, let David live.

Frances Morey

Dear Elected Official [who I voted for]:

The most compelling reason I have for decrying capital punishment is that it reeks of human sacrifice--in the name of vengeance. It is the most premeditated murder of all. It implicates us all as serial killer accomplices.

The mark of when a society become civilized is at the very moment when it does away with human sacrifice.

Rosemary Lehmberg, you could accomplish this in one stroke by calling off the execution of David Powell.

Death by lethal injection is no different than the Mayan practice of wielding an obsidian dagger, thrusting it into the chest of a live, breathing human being, cutting out the living heart and holding it aloft for all to see, still beating as the decapitated head rolls down the stairs of the high altar to ground level. It's the same damned thing!


Frances Morey

Howard Hawhee

May 29th, 2010

Dear Attorney Lehmberg,

I am writing to you again to request that you withdraw the scheduled June 15th execution date for David Lee Powell.

You are as aware as anyone can be of all the facts of the case, the details of David Powell's life, and all the arguments for and against executing him; so I would like to focus on two thoughts about your role as a public figure:

First, as the Travis County District Attorney, you could take an action that would reverberate throughout this country and the world and would make history. The times really are changing with respect to capital punishment, and people would point to the withdrawal of David's execution as the definitive signal that the death penalty was finally on its way out, even in Texas.

Yes, there would be a horrible outcry against you, with all kinds of profanity, threats, and slander. It might not be easy for you politically. But this is a defining moment for you, both personally and in the eyes of the world: you can do what's right and, no matter what the cost, you can sleep well at night; or you can insist that "three juries must be respected" and let the execution go ahead.

The will of three juries does not and will not equal your conscience.

If we think of the death penalty as a civil rights issue for the 21st century, then we might ask ourselves, "which side would LBJ be on, and which side would George Wallace be on?"

Secondly, as I believe I have also mentioned to you before, some number of Travis County voters (including me) voted for you in the primary where you won the Democratic nomination for the office you now hold. We specifically voted for you because we understood that you had the best position on the death penalty of all those who had a chance of winning the election.

I find it especially poignant that the person who finally convinced me to vote for you is a dear friend of David Powell, and she was convinced that you were the best shot for keeping David from execution. She, along with many others, will be permanently scarred by this execution, while it will not change the depth of the Ablanedo family's grief.

You now have sufficient evidence that many in Travis County have grave doubts about this execution and would support a moratorium on executions. You can make it clear to the public that withdrawing the execution date in no way leads to freeing David Powell.

If you are able to withdraw the execution date and not ask for it again, you will get my unwavering support in the future and I will actively work for you politically. I know I speak for many others. The choice is yours.


Howard Hawhee

Emilie Farenthold
September 30, 2009

Re: Request for Support of Clemency, David Powell

Dear Ms. Lemberg:

I have met Mr. Powell and believe him to be gentle and kind hearted. He has spent many years on death row helping others. I know he was convicted of the murder of Officer Ralph Ablanedo. I grieve for Mr. Ablanedo and his family. Nevertheless, I do not believe executing Mr. Powell will serve a good purpose.

After visiting Mr. Powell, I thought "I could have been him. In the wrong situation, I might have committed his crime." Although the law rightly holds us responsible for our actions, social psychology teaches that situation is the most reliable predictor of behavior. It is only by the grace of G_d that I have not been placed in a situation in which I took another's life. I have received His mercy and many, many blessings in my life. In gratitude for all that I have received, I ask, please extend your mercy to Mr. Powell.

If you have any doubt about the benefits of executing human beings; if you have any doubt about the sanity of David Powell or his unimpaired ability to govern his behavior at the time of the shooting of Officer Ablanedo; or if you have any doubt about the fairness of disparities in sentencing; please attend to your doubt. Please support Mr. Powell's plea for clemency.

Thank you.

Sincerely yours,

Emilie Farenthold

Harvey Grossman

June 10, 2010

Dear Ms. Lehmberg:

I have been thinking about you. Despite having practiced law for 48 years, I can't recall a case equalling Mr. Powell's in the certainty of the prosecutor ultimately being regarded as either a stone hearted witch or a lily-livered yellow-belly, depending on which faction is disappointed by your ultimate decision.

What seems certain is that this case will be your legacy, and there is no beacon to guide you with certainty. Nevertheless, the facts of this case are such that it will likely be looked to for guidance in other cases for a long time hereafter.

The structure of our criminal law offers clues as to how such a case can be approached with some wisdom. For example, commutations of sentence can be granted when, with the benefit of hindsight, a sentence appears to be excessive. And, the administration of the clemency process is to be conducted only in a manner fully consistent with public safety. The Vision Statement of the Board of Pardons and Paroles refers to its purpose as maximizing the restoration of human potential. In other words, we have a common sense legislative and judicial scheme designed to promote fairness and the dignity and security of our fellow Texans.

I have read Mr. Burr's brief, and I am simply astonished by the extent, consistency, and depth of appreciation, trust, reliance, admiration, respect, gratitude, and even love which are evidenced for David by his fellow inmates. David clearly enhances the lives, and often even the character, of these most miserable of men, undoubtedly making the work of the prison guards less dangerous and tense in the process. It is so obvious as to be beyond discussion that David's small part of the world is a better, safer place with David in it and not in a grave. In prison, David actually enhances public safety.

I realize that the formal issues in the habeas application are future dangerousness and the application of the 8th Amendment to it. However, there may be another way of looking at the case which is simpler, less contentious, and probably more acceptable and understandable to the public.

Not everyone convicted of a capital murder is executed. David's continuing record of helpfulness and accomplishment in prison is so extraordinary, it would be counterproductive to the prison system to execute him. Furthermore, executing David would, by comparison, set the future standard of conduct for avoiding execution so high that almost no one could attain it. That is not what is intended under our law. If our legislature had desired such a Draconian system it would have enacted one. To execute David under these circumstances would presumably violate legislative intent.

I believe the wisest and most straightforward way for all concerned to conclude this proceeding would be for you to withdraw the warrant of execution and give the public an easily understandable explanation of your legal reasoning for doing so.

I hope you do not find my suggestions presumptuous; they are intended to reduce everyone's level of pain and serve the best interest of the state.

Sincerely yours,

Harvey Grossman

cc: Clemency Section
Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles
Governor Rick Perry

Emilie Farenthold

June 8, 2010

Re: In Support of Clemency for David Powell

Dear Ms. Lehmberg:

When David Powell shot and killed Officer Ralph Ablanedo, Powell blighted many lives. Powell cut short jokes, kind words, and endearments; gestures of affection and all the manifest, physical expressions of love that are possible only between living beings. These give both pleasure and meaning to our lives. Powell took them from those closest to Ralph Ablanedo and from Ralph Ablanedo himself. Ralph Ablanedo was a beloved and loving husband, father, family member, and brother officer. Ralph Ablanedo himself lost all that human beings know and experience through the five senses and the mind. What Powell destroyed when he killed Ralph Ablanedo was precious indeed.

For the Austin community, the murder of Officer Ralph Ablanedo was like an assassination because he represented the best Austin had to offer and will remain irreplaceable forever. When Officer Ablanedo swore an oath to protect the community and place service to it over all else, the City of Austin chose Officer Ablanedo to serve it, and Officer Ablanedo himself chose to serve the City. Like other revered leaders who have been assassinated, Ralph Ablanedo was a public servant in the highest sense. He devoted himself and sacrificed all he had, his life itself, to the service of the community.

There is no adequate method to measure or calculate the loss Powell inflicted by killing Officer Ralph Ablanedo.

Ten years of solitary confinement during a prison stay of 32 years and execution may not be sufficient punishment for a loss that cannot be measured. Although torture is illegal and unconstitutional, even torturing Powell preceding his execution might not sufficiently redeem the death of Ralph Ablanedo.

David Powell said he was morally humbled by his murder of Officer Ablanedo and by receiving a sentence of death from three different juries of his peers. It is fitting that David Powell should be morally humbled in this tragic and irreparable situation.

Powell lived a virtuous and studious life before he chose to experiment with drugs and deal them, to descend into a hell of addiction to methamphetamines and to stay there, plagued by cravings for drugs and a murderous paranoia. Since the state took Powell into custody, 32 years ago, he has lived a virtuous life. He has been a model of obedience, kindness, and service in prison. Powell exemplifies remorse and, arguably at least, has redeemed himself through service to others.

In the great Greek tragedy, Oedipus, who unwittingly murdered his father and married his mother, blinded himself when he found his wife and mother dead by her own hand. He used the broach that she wore. Thereafter, Oedipus was exiled from the city of Thebes where he had been king. Oedipus wandered until he found refuge in a holy wilderness outside Athens. Oedipus died peacefully, and it was said his grave was sacred to the gods.

Ironically, the Institutional Division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice is Texas's modern approximation of exile and a holy wilderness in the Greek tragedy.

The passage by David Powell and Oedipus through the horrors of violating the most sacred of society's taboos generates knowledge that is rare, and may be as near as most of us will approach to sacred wisdom. The truths embedded in the tragedy of David Powell and Ralph Ablanedo should be preserved and memorized. Their cost was terrible to Officer Ralph Ablanedo, his family, friends, brother officers, and to the citizens of Austin. Their cost to David Powell, his mother, his sister, his uncle, all his relatives, and his many loving friends has also been terrible, although for Powell and those who love him, it might be said that the costs are merely the deserved consequences of Powell's actions.

Ultimately, what the state decides to do with David Powell speaks more about the values Texans hold dear than about Powell's murder of Officer Ablanedo. Given a choice between righteous vengeance and painful knowledge, which do Texans choose?

Thank you.

Sincerely yours,

Emilie Farenthold

cc: Clemency Section
Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles

Kirsten Dean

June 5, 2010

Dear Attorney Lehmberg,

I am writing to ask that you withdraw the scheduled June 15th execution date for David Lee Powell.

While I am aware that as DA, you work very closely with, and rely on the support of the police, who are mainly in favor of this execution, as an official elected with the overall support of Austin democrats you also represent a population that is largely opposed to the death penalty. Texas is #4 in the number of its executed, right behind the likes of Saudi Arabia, China, and Iran. Is this the company we want to keep? I certainly do not want to be listed in that number, yet I recognize that historically we as democrats in Travis County have had little control over the situation.

But in the case of David Lee Powell, however, perhaps we are not entirely powerless, and you as Travis County District Attorney certainly are not. You are in the unique position of actually having the opportunity and the ability to withdraw your request for an execution date, and thus withdraw our county's participation in what for the state of Texas would be a business-as-usual execution, but for me and many others will be the tragedy of yet another name added to Texas' long list of executed. We do not want this man's blood on our hands.

Given the politics of this case, and given that David Powell was convicted when there was no such thing as life without parole, to leave it in the hands of Governor Perry or the Board of Pardons and Paroles makes it very unlikely indeed that his life will be spared. However, as Travis County District Attorney, you do have the power and the authority to withdraw your request for an execution date, and this request need not lead to nor endorse freedom for David Powell, yet it could send the message that capital punishment is on its way out, perhaps even in Texas.

I sincerely hope that you will join us in rejecting this cruel and outdated practice.


Kirsten Dean

Sister Helen Prejean

June 3, 2010

Dear District Attorney Lehmberg,

I'm writing you in response to the execution date which you asked the trial court to set for David Lee Powell. I am extremely disappointed because this is a time when the death penalty is beginning to fall into disrepute, and Mr. Powell's case provides a significant opportunity to make a statement about the enormous waste, human and monetary, associated with the death penalty. You could have used this moment to lead society away from the death penalty but instead you acquiesced to the conventional wisdom of Texas' death penalty politics. In a world that is increasingly turning away from the death penalty, Texas is out of step. I believe you know this, and as the District Attorney of the most progressive county in Texas, you can help take us in a different direction.

I am writing to urge you to reverse your course. You have the authority to ask the court to withdraw the death warrant and to use that act as an opportunity to lead the State of Texas into a more just and peaceful future. Other leaders like you have chosen to lead the public away from the death penalty, where they once believed in it, because they understand it to be wrong on so many levels. I believe you are that kind of leader.

It has been said that the penalty of knowing one's evil deed is punishment enough. David Powell knows his evil deed, has shown true remorse for it, and has suffered immensely. He has led an exemplary life since his conviction, even from the despair of Death Row. He no longer deserves the death penalty. I have reason to believe you feel the same way. I beg you to ask the court to withdraw the execution date and use this as an opportunity to move us in a different direction.

I pray that you will take the extraordinary step of asking the trial court to withdraw the death warrant, and let David live. After serving 32 years on death row, taking him to execution is not befitting of a civilized society. I know the political risk of what I am asking you to do. But how many times do any of us have an opportunity to seize the moment, and lead people into a more just and peaceful world? You, Ms Lehmberg, have that opportunity right now. It may make you unpopular with some factions, it may make your next political race more difficult in some ways, but you will have the passionate support of the many people who can see the true courage it would take for you to take this extraordinary measure.

Let the public know that when the death penalty no longer serves any legitimate public interest, as in the case of David Powell, you will not embrace it.

Years from now, when 2010 is a distant memory, you can be the profile in courage whose memory Austin will honor. If you let David live, you will be the DA our grandchildren read about in history books. If you let David live, years from now a child will come home from school in Austin and her parents will ask what did you learn today. And the child will say, "today we learned about Rosemary Lehmberg".


Sr. Helen Prejean

Kathy Doyle

June 1, 2010

Dear District Attorney Lehmberg, and Board Members,

I am writing to you on behalf of our family friend, David Lee Powell, whose life I hope you will spare.

In 1964 my family moved to Hurst, Texas and my younger brother, Jim, (1950-1998) entered the same school that David Lee Powell attended. Jim was paralyzed from his shoulder blades down and wore rigid heavy metal braces that went from his sternum to where they were inserted into his brown orthopedic shoes. He could not bend his hips or knees, he could neither sit nor stride, but with the braces and a pair of crutches he could be mobile enough to attend public school (This was long before the Americans with Disabilities Act). He could swing through his crutches and move from class to class and hop himself up and down stairs. During class he would stand in the back row and a small wooden podium was placed on his desk so he could write and do his work. He needed someone to carry this podium and his books from class to class and to be guarded as he used stairways in case he lost his balance. Being the new kid, he didn’t have any friends to help him. David Lee Powell volunteered, and he carried my brother’s podium and books from class to class every day for 4 years. He became my brother’s first friend and they shared their mutual deep devotion to the Catholic Church.

During these years I was in college in Austin but I heard a lot of good things about David and met him from time to time. During a break in his senior year David and a friend stayed with me while they looked into enrolling at UT. During all that time David was kind, sweet natured, even tempered, eager to please, and easy going; with a ready smile and a twinkle in his eyes. He liked to be useful. He was a handsome boy and I don't think he realized it. He was on the shy side but listened well and laughed easily. I think his shyness is one reason he was so helpful; so he could be busy and take the attention off of himself.

In the spring of 1978 I went to a big outdoor party in Austin and saw him there. He looked so awful that at first I didn't recognize him. Then when I did, I froze- torn between wanting to give him a hug, and hoping he didn’t see me. It was obvious he was not himself and he was strung out on some- thing. A slender man, he was now emaciated, his hair was dirty, his clothes wrinkled and his eyes wild. My heart broke for him- I wanted to go and hug him and help him, this gentle soul and generous boy that I remembered, but I was also frightened of him, and felt powerless. This sweet and beautiful boy had become another person. He recognized me and came up and spoke to me for a minute or two and I don’t remember a word of what he said, I was in such shock from seeing him so horribly deteriorated. This was Austin in the 70’s before anyone knew about methamphetamine psychosis and addiction or treatment centers and I felt incapable of helping him in any way. I never saw him again. I was traveling a lot at the time and was gone when Officer Ablanedo was shot.

Shortly after I came back I heard that he and some girl had killed Officer Ralph Ablanedo. It was a stupid and horrible and heartbreaking event. And the heartbreak just goes on and on. Both families lost their future and their son that day and Officer Alameda’s wife and children lost a husband and father.

My father spent 12 years on the police force in Rochester New York and my uncle and grandfather were on the force their entire lives. When they joined the force they vowed to serve and protect and they realized they might die in the line of duty. And their family knew this too. Through the grace of God despite all of their years on the force they each died of old age. I imagine Officer Ablanedo, like the policemen in my family, as big hearted. Tragically, Officer Ablanedo, God rest his soul, was put into a position where he had to lay down his life in the line of duty and, heroically, he did. His bravery insured that David or Sheila would harm no one else, and he went to heaven without a murder on his own soul. Although this act may have prevented others from coming to harm, the fact that he lost his life is appalling.

Five years ago, when our son was 12 my husband died suddenly. I know how frequent, sharp and awful the pain is to see your child without his father and to miss your husband everyday. My dear friend Lou Perryman was murdered last year, I know the shock and rage that a sudden violent death brings. What I want the most is for them not to be dead.

I don’t think one can say what one will do or think about a cataclysmic life event unless one stands in those shoes. I don’t know if I stood in the shoes of any of Officer Ablanedo's family what I would do in his memory – if I would want leniency or retribution.

But I do know that retribution does not bring back the dead. No matter whether David Lee Powell dies or lives incarcerated for the rest of his life, or how much David suffers, Ralph Ablanedo will always be dead. Nor will David’s execution make the world safer. But his execution will weigh on the hearts of his mother and sister and on all of us, compounding the tragedy.

I heard a saying recently “Never offer Satan a ride because if you do sooner or later he’s going want to drive” I feel that clearly this is what happened to David Lee Powell. Only being possessed by a severe addiction could have transformed him into the destroyed personality who acted so fearfully and violently. David was never cruel or mean spirited, even in his humor.

I beg you to reconsider and spare the life of this good human who made a terrible mistake. Let him do what good he can inside of prison for his remaining years.

Thank you,

Kathy Doyle

John Y. Harper

June 1, 2010

Dear District Attorney:

I am a physician in San Antonio, Texas and am writing you in regard to the proposed upcoming execution of David Lee Powell. I am 81 years old, a medical school graduate, a law school graduate, and have had some experience in life. Because of my background, I may have some idea of the tremendous responsibility that your position places upon you.

I know that you have been told and are fully aware of the reasons proposed against this execution and I will not repeat them. I do not know how you are going to do it, but I pray that a wisdom greater than that of Solomon will give a solution that will permit David not to be executed but that everyone will say that Compassion and Justice have been served.

Sincerely yours,

John Y. Harper, Jr. M.D.

David Walker

May 22, 2010

Dear Ms. Lehmberg,

I have never written to a DA, and I have never formally expressed a personal opinion to anyone in authority regarding a specific criminal case. It is my custom to trust the system to be just.

In the 9th grade, I decided I wanted to be an architect. It was not an easy path for me. Academic and financial challenges combined with polio limiting the use of my right arm and left leg combined to delay my being registered by the State of Texas until I was 31 years old. I am now 63 and have practiced architecture for 32 years. 32 years feels like a lifetime. Stop for a moment and reflect on what has happened in the past 32 years of your life? I’m sure it makes a long and wonderful story.

I am ashamed and embarrassed by the fact that, in the name of Texas Justice, David L. Powell has been on Death Row that same amount of time. From everything I can learn from all sources, David Powell is guilty and should be punished. But, our system of justice has committed many errors during those 32 years and, in my opinion, has not fully accounted for its own responsibilities in this case. An execution after 32 years goes beyond cruel and unusual. It is vengeful, and not worthy of being called justice. The just and humane action at this point would be to commute his sentence to Life in prison.

I am not an opponent of the death penalty. I believe it is a necessary component in the criminal justice system. But, given the long, unusually-long history of this case and the evidence discovered later but not allowed into consideration, an execution is, at this point, something other than justice.

True Justice is not a stranger to mercy.

Thank You,

David L. Walker

Chris Edwards

May 17, 2010

Ms. Lehmberg,

I'm writing you in response to the execution date which you asked the trial court to set for David Lee Powell. I am extremely disappointed that you took this action. By doing so, I believe you are taking our progressive county down a very ugly path, a path that the people who put you in office do not, and will not, support.

Texas is clearly out-of-step with the civilized world regarding the death penalty. The citizens of Travis County want criminal defendants, including the convicted, to receive fair trials AND just and humane treatment post-conviction.

David Powell has already spent 32 years in prison--essentially a life sentence. I do not believe there is any evidence to suggest that he poses a threat to anyone. What is more, while in prison, he has actually accomplished a great deal and given to the community in countless ways.

In short, I am writing to urge you to reverse your course. Please request that the court withdraw the execution date. It is the right thing to do for David Powell and for Travis County.


Chris Edwards

Letter via Congress.org

May 4, 2010

Governor Rick Perry,

I am taking a moment to write about the scheduled execution of David Lee Powell, this coming June 15.

I am not in favor of that execution. I have the faith that we can live without it.

Governor, it is time that we evolve to being successful against violent crime ; time that we address it by means other than retribution, which some of us view as primitive, and hold reservations as to its efficacy.

We need to dismiss hatred, so eager to drive us astray ; I am quite distressed by this endless perpetuation of violence ; we are in dire need of a cultural change.

We need to accumulate the experiences of success stories, and for that, I can very well envision making use of the help of valuable persons such as Mr Powell, who know first-hand what can make a person go so terribly wrong, and also know how to recover from it. Such people are precious for our advancement.

Are you game for improvement? This is an accomplishment that would look good on anyone. I am hoping that you find the courage to be.

Austin , TX

Leslie Pilder

May 1, 2010

Dear Ms. Lehmberg,

I'm writing you in response to the execution date which you asked the trial court to set for David Lee Powell. In a world that is increasingly turning away from the death penalty, Texas is out of step. I am writing to urge you to reverse your course.

David Powell has led an exemplary life, even from the despair of Death Row. He no longer deserves the death penalty, if he ever did. The abuse of drugs and lack of help from the medical profession clearly compromised his health, behavior, and ability to act in a peaceful way. His years in prison have shown him to be no threat to society or anyone in the prison community.

Please work to stop this execution. Allow David Powell to live his life peacefully in prison, removing him from the cruel punishment of decades on death row.


Leslie Pilder

Nyack, NY

Jana Carter

April 12, 2010

Ms. Lehmberg:

I know that these decisions are hard. I know that you are there to represent "The People." And I know that the death of a police officer in many hearts can never be redeemed.

But I also know that if David had been permitted to be up for parole he would have earned it. David has been punished long enough and he is extremely unlikely, with all of his family and friend support, to suddenly relapse and become a danger to society.

Sometimes it's hard to do the right thing. But you are the one who has to grapple with that decision and live with it every day, just as David has to live with the pain he's caused. You are the one this time who holds the keys to someone's life.

These decisions suck. They really, really suck. But that's why you have the job you do. Because people trust you to do the right thing, even when it's really really hard. Some people may actually think the "right" thing is to let David die to avenge the officer's untimely death, but you know that's not really the right thing in this case. It's easy to hide behind the law and process. It's hard to actually take the reigns your job provides you and ride in the direction that calls you, but does not appear to reward you.

As a fellow lawyer who has grappled with this issue and as a citizen with moral and spiritual notions, I ask you to not worry about what others think and do what you know to be the right thing. Stop pursuing David's death. Let David live a new life. And feel the relief, knowing that despite political and professional pressures, you did the right thing. You will be rewarded, with your own well-lived life.

Thanks for reading. Good luck. Prayers for you as you face this difficult moral choice. I pray you'll have courage, strength and faith.

Jana Carter


Jude Filler

April 4, 2010

Dear Rosemary Lehmberg,

A dozen times a day I write to you in my head and sometimes my words are even eloquent, but these days I am not able to remember them long enough to get them down in writing. So I apologize in advance about my writing and ask you to read it with a generous spirit.

It has been a difficult time for me since I met with you – I have been hospitalized at length because of the cancer I have and then from complications from the two massive abdominal surgeries and two scary radiation treatments, which went badly. For the past four months I have rarely been able to write even to my friend David Powell, much less could I visit him.

Two of those times in the hospital I was very, very close to death; it was upon me both physically and spiritually. At one point, I lingered for two days in the land of death, and saw the slaughter of everyone who ever died since the beginning of time. Sometimes the pain was relentless and unbearable. It looks now like I might be around a while longer. A while. I am 61 years old, like yourself. Even if I were well, how much longer would I live?

A few years ago, New York State had just enough votes in their Senate to resume executions. Right before the vote, one of the Senators, whose vote was key to passage, had a heart attack. When he returned to work, he had changed his mind about voting for death. Meeting death up close, he could see that it’s not something humans should choose to do.

I have heard your recent bottom line on “the Powell matter” has been that you are not involved because 3 juries decided. But, you know those three juries were misled, manipulated and/or bullied (sequestered) and, anyway, they didn’t have the information you have today. You changed your mind about letting Ellen Halbert lead a reconciliation and chose to turn the decision over to Bruce and Mrs. Mills to decide on David's life or death. The thing is, like me, Rosemary, you are going to die soon, too. We all are. Everyone. It seems to me that, in separating yourself from the decision, you are attempting to avoid the real issue: for you, as for all of us, it is not about David, but about what are we going to have said and done that is the best we could do and be in this life?

David is a very fine person, despite having made juvenile bad judgments that led, against his every belief and principle, to Officer Ablanedo’s death. And, though you and I didn't make those particular bad judgments, he was part of those times and couldn't have predicted the outcome. Even for those who believe in executions, killing him is not what the law intended. It’s for bad guys and he is, without a doubt, a good guy -- the number of reliable witnesses to this, both living and dead, is very great, whether you choose to know him personally or not. If the juries had known the truth, as you know it today, they would not have sentenced him to die. Even then, the last jury was 6/6 until it was sequestered.

You say you know the death penalty is going away and you won’t miss it. For G-d's sake and for the sake of the community, take a stand while you can. Few of us get the opportunity you have now to show leadership and compassion. I know you’ve already done a lot to make Travis County safer. Rosemary, please choose to make it immeasurably better.

Thank you for letting me write to you. I know this cannot be easy for you and I remember you in my prayers always. Trust me, whose life changed inconceivably, ten years ago, when I was sidelined by this cancer; until you go there you cannot know the gifts which courage will bestow. Despite what you may think your community will say if you show this daring goodness, your remaining years will be immensely richer for having done it. None of us can know what comes after this life, but all the great prophets have been unequivocal -- keep on the side of compassion.


Jude Filler

Aliza Appel

March 31, 2010

Governor Rick Perry,

I have sent this letter to Rosemary Lehmberg and the Board of Pardons. You have it in your power to avert this terrible breach of human justice.

Please, please reconsider your stand on the execution of David Powell. He has been punished and has changed profoundly into a man who could do much to serve the world. I ask this as a Quaker who believes in redemption and in the innate value of every human life. I ask this as a citizen of one of the last civilized nations to still practice this form of barbarism. I ask this as a woman who would not fear to be in the presence of David, a peaceful, articulate and compassionate man.

Aliza Appel

Newark , DE

Ryan Ellison

March 29, 2010

Ms. Lehmberg,

I am writing to ask you to reverse the execution order for David Powell. Though this is a man whom I have never met, I am compelled to tell you that in the eyes of the public, he holds no further threat, is one who has sought an appropriate amount of redemption by exerting himself as an exemplary individual, and would be recognized as having been served a tremendous injustice to him were he led to fulfill his sentenced death penalty. The mass of respected individuals who have testified to remark upon the wholesome character and leadership qualities displayed by David are very compelling in their singular description of David Powell as a reformed man.

Certainly, you are aware of the Brother’s Keepers Humanitarian Award, for whom David was chosen in 2008. You also must know of his credibility as a speaker for education and criminal justice, and of his role as mentor to fellow inmates and students. You have likely been shown in numerous significant examples that David Powell has made every attempt to reconcile his life choices for the betterment of himself and his fellow man. Are you going to choose to summarize David Powell by these extraordinary achievements, or by one very uncharacteristic event in his life three decades ago?

I was born on Jan. 13, 1985; The very same day that David Powell would have been celebrating his own 34th birthday. On the day of my birth, David would have already served seven years on death row. Now, at my age of 25, I have had a short lifetime full of experiences; Whereas, David has been confined to a solitary life experience, HE HAS ALSO LEAD HIMSELF POSITIVELY and has acted in repent for every day of his incarcerated life. The cost of a human life is the greatest unnecessary expense. Please let David live.


Ryan Ellison

Sally Norvell

March 23, 2010

Ms Lehmberg,

I am deeply disappointed by your decision to execute David Lee Powell. You have a relationship with this man that spans 32 years, and so you must know that the man you will be responsible for putting to death on June 15 is not the same person who shot Officer Ablanedo . You could be a true Texas patriot, a leader worthy of a place in the history books, by taking the brave stand against this injustice. It is not acceptable that you insist repeatedly on using the 3 juries to justify your position on this. It is legally acceptable of course, but I don't have to tell you that those juries were tainted by the presence of police in the courtroom, prosecution tactics that even disturbed the CCA, and the disadvantage of the already predetermined death sentences. It does not take much to come to the conclusion that these were not fair trials. Even Amnesty International has felt compelled to point out the sad 'evidence' used to demonstrate David's 'dangerousness' in his last sentencing trial... An extra pair of socks? Really?

I pray that you will take the extraordinary step of asking the trial court to withdraw the death warrant, and let David live. It is the only just and humane thing to do, and it will show the citizens of Travis County, Texas, and the world what you are really made of. I know the political risk of this, and I understand your capitulation in this matter. But how many times do any of us have in this lifetime to seize the moment, and lead people into a more just and peaceful world? You, Ms Lehmberg, have that opportunity right now. It may make you unpopular with some factions, it may make your next political race more difficult in some ways, but you will have the passionate support of the many people who can see the true courage it would take for you to take this extraordinary measure. You will have the support of such leaders as Bill Richardson, Kamala Harris, Sam Millsap, and Chief Norm Stamper. You will be celebrated in publications such as the Austin American Statesman, the Dallas Morning News, Texas Monthly and the New York Times. You will be one of the brave few who will be able to stand tall when the time comes to end the death penalty in this nation, and that time will come soon, in our lifetimes.


Sally Norvell

Baldrich Mouanda

March 22, 2010

Chere Madame Lehmberg,

My name is Baldrich Mouanda, I am 12 years old; the name of my brother is Ranel, he is 19 years old. We are born in the Republique du Congo, and have come to Austria, because there was a civil war in our country. We live in the apartment of our white friend Henri in Vienne.

Henri has told us about Mr. David Lee Powell who killed a policeman long ago because he had taken drugs and was not mentally healthy when he had committed this crime. I want to become a police officer when I am a grown-up man, so I have great pity with the killed policeman and his family. My friend Henri has told us that Mr. Powell has been on the death row for 32 years, and that he will be executed in June.

Henri told us that Mr Powell had done many good deeds in prison and he also taught English to other prisoners who were not good in reading and writing English. As my native language is KiKongo and French I know that it is very important to have a friend who helps you in language skills. Henri has told us that you are a very important person in Texas and you can save the life of Mr Powell.

Mr. Powell has become a very good man in prison in the meantime. He has been on the death row for 32 years. That is enough punishment for him. Dear Ms Lehmberg let Mr Powell live, and show mercy on him. I pray every day for you and Monsieur Powell in the evening. Thank you very much.

Best wishes from Vienne

Heinz Leitner March 9, 2010 Dear District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, I, an Austrian disabled men in a wheelchair after an accident, and retired official of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs in Vienna; and former representative of this ministry in the Austrian Board of Paroles (Verein für Bewährungshilfe, now: Neustart) have come to know about the case of Mr. David Lee Powell who has been on the Death Row for 32 years. I have learned that Mr. Powell can be executed within 90 days. I am very much concerned about it. I have been informed that is up to you to spare Mr. Powell’s life. Taking into consideration his redemptive actions and his true remorse and his many years on the death row I ask you to show mercy upon Mr. Powell. I know my voice as a citizen of the European Union does not have any weight but I do ask you as an old man: Please do show clemency to Mr. Powell! Please do not add the execution of this man after such a long time on the Death Row! Sincerely, Yours Dr. Heinz Leitner

Vik Bahl

October 4. 2009

Dear Rosemary Lehmberg,

I am writing with my most earnest plea for you to support clemency for David Lee Powell. I first came to know David back in 1995 when I was completing my Ph.D. at the University of Texas. He had asked a mutual friend of ours whether he could contact me. Since I had never had any prior relationship with anyone under criminal supervision, I have to admit that I was apprehensive but agreed to receive his call. I hardly anticipated that he and I would develop a profound friendship that has lasted nearly 15 years!

I am actually not the only one who has had this experience with David. I am not his family member, nor was I his friend or associate prior to the horrific, tragic events of May 18. 1978. Neither the criminal justice system in general nor the death penalty in particular are significant arenas for my professional or political activities. So I have often wondered what explains my relationship with David. And how has he won the respect, friendship and love of so many perfect strangers from various walks of life?

Some may have learned of how David has lived his life while on death row, the many positive contributions he has made: teaching fellow prisoners how to read and write; communicating with victims’ families to allow them opportunities to come to terms with their grief and anger; providing legal and emotional counsel when he could; and making himself available to various professionals working on criminal justice issues, including professors, artists, international delegations, among others.

Yet I don’t believe that David’s good deeds and demonstrated commitment to leading a purposeful life are enough to explain the scope and depth of the relationships he has been able to establish. You may have heard before from David’s supporters that the heinous and senseless actions and chain of events leading to the tragic death of Officer Ralph Ablanedo are well beyond the bounds of David’s authentic character, both before his struggle with addiction to methamphetamines and since his imprisonment when he has had access to mental health resources.

Speaking for myself, I can say that I was struck immediately by David’s unpresuming manner. I never felt that he was asking anything from me. Instead, here was someone who had a generosity of spirit, who was sensitive and solicitous of others, who demonstrated modesty, kindness and dignity, and who exhibited a wisdom born of relentless self-examination and an unblinking awareness of life’s suffering, including what he himself has caused. I have seen David as a fellow educator, and I have imagined that under different circumstances he would have been regarded as a tremendous resource and source of strength for any community.

I am not writing this letter for clemency simply out of a principled opposition to the death penalty. I am writing this letter for David in particular. Because the crossroads of clemency alert us to the often dense and thorny path of discerning and administering justice, evident in the legal complexities of David’s case. Because the notion of mercy is an inescapable and dignified presence in the weighty obligations of justice. Because clemency and mercy require us to reflect on what is gained and what is lost through our actions in the name of justice.

I do not ask that David be spared so that he can go on enjoying life. Let us spare him because we have discovered beyond a reasonable doubt that he consistently and extraordinarily contributes something valuable to the lives of others. Prison is only seemingly a world apart. What happens inside, how lives and relationships unfold, and the culture that evolves within impact all of us and are part of us. Let David serve as a force for good inside the dark and desperate world of the prison, and let clemency for him be an occasion for all of us to discover our common humanity and what the human spirit is capable of achieving.

Most respectfully,

Vik Bahl, Ph.D.

Sylvie Calvet

Dear Mrs Lehmberg ,

I come one more time to request you please , in the name of Humanity , if not for him for his old mother , to spare the life of David Powell . I am French , France and USA have a long tradition of share values of Independance and Liberty for over 200 years since La Fayette and French troups came to help Americans to gain their Independance , French people offered the Statue of Liberty over 100 years ago as a token of frienship to commemorate this Independance and Freedom , and American troups came to help France and Europe get rid of Nazy troups . I was born in Paris " Martyrised , but Paris Liberated " less than 2 years after and taught by my parents to respect particularely General de Gaulle , and the Americans " who had comme all the way ....." as my mother used to say .

My daughter Livia is dual French and American and was braught to write the thesis of her Master's in Peace and International Studies on :Capital Punishment in the United States : " a New Abolitionist Perspective on an Arbitrary and Politicised ' Administration of Death ' after the execution at Huntsville in on march Ist 2000 of Odell Barnes who was executed , despite the fact that neither Robert Badinter who was Ministry of Justice in France when Death Penalty was Abolished , or the President of the French Human Right organisation found ANY proof of his guilt !

Livia's thesis written in 2001 was just published last month as a publisher seeing it in the Trinity College 's library ( Ireland ) decided to publish it . You can see it on Amazon books.

As Robert Badinter pointed in an interview at New-York Public library ( see youtube ) Death Penalty will soon be ABOLISHED Worldwide. STATES ARE REQUESTING IT IN INTERNATIONAL ASSEMBLIES , the First Ministry of Spain called for it recently , and USA who is the LAST Western Democracy to have it could lead this Human Progress instead of retarding it !


Other People who committed more crimes than he did , were ready to commit even more crimes , have proved they could be rehabilited and serve the community , and David Powell is a person who could be given this second chance .

Robert Badinter had a client who was about the same age as David Powell , had killed a policeman at about the same time while attacking a bank and Not under drug influence , had been condemn to have his head cut off : when death penalty was abolished in France in 1981 , Robert Badinter who was Ministry of Justice at the time and faught all his life for France , than World Abolition of Death penalty went straight from the Chamber of Deputies where the Abolition had just passed to the jail to tell his client his head was saved : after completing brilliant studies , he is today a recognized Historian, specialist of Medieval time , was released in 2000 , and wrote his story : " from hatred to life " .

I am asking You , Mrs Lehmberg to please give the same chance to David Powell who , and his desperate family along , has gone through a MOST HEAVY PUNISHMENT ! as NO OTHER WESTERN DEMOCRACY TODAY GIVES !

The death of Officer Ablanedo was a great suffering and most sudden and chocking for his Family and for the Community : nothing can be done to return it ! and David Powell receiving an injection like an animal one wants to get rid of , following 10 years of isolation and 32 years of hell life in death row , where inmates are treated " less than a dog " will not change anything , but completly destroy his old Mother :and it is UNWORTH THE GREATEST WESTERN DEMOCRACY , UNWORTH the 21 th CENTURY : YOU , MRS LEHMBERG HAVE THE POWER TO BRING THE WHOLE TEXAN COMMUNITY TO A HIGHER LEVEL OF MORAL CONDUCT ,SHOW THE COMMUNITY 'S ABILITY TO EXPRESS COMPASSION , DEVELOP IT AND BRING ENTIRE UNITED STATES TOWARDS THE HUMAN LEVEL ALL WESTERN DEMOCRACIES ARE WAITING THEM TO JOIN .

United States have a Department of Peace and Non Violence ment to bring other countries to develop more harmonious relations ! How can they be followed , and even sound credible when 10% of the US population is incarcerated , many out of WRONG CONVICTIONS ! while their Family does not know HOW to prove their Innocence , nor How long it will take before someone DARES CHECKING WHETHER THEY'RE GUILTY OR NOT ? ENTIRE FAMILES ARE DESTROYED FOR YEARS DUE TO WRONG CONVICTIONS ! NO OTHER DEMOCRACY TREAT ITS INMATES THE WAY "FREE" USA DOES !

Humanity , Mrs Lehmberg walks ahead , not backward , and ahead is a less cruel society and a more Harmonious Community ! Ahead is spending money on Social Progress and development : not on prisons where inmates " belong " to the local State , are " less than a dog " , burned with pepper spray , electrocuted by tasers , where guards are protect with baseball types of equipment , carring shield to protect themselve from unarmed inmates , where 9 or 10 men maintain under the heavy body a man who refuses to be maintain in a contention chair where many have died of suffocation , while guards " could not give a fuck about it " as reported by BBC 's report : more humanity is not wearing a coverhall with DP written on it , it is not locking 13 or 14 years old kids to life without parole , because they wanted to protected their mother of an abusing boy friend sheriff , or because NO ONE was there to protect them from a pim, NO ONE EVEN CARES WHEN THEY'RE ABUSED IN JAIL BY MEN STANDING IN LINE !



Justice is NOT false confession, false accusation by snitchs who buy their own liberty by denouncing just anybody , Justice is not gambling a man 's freedom or life for the sake of an election or a carrier : we will ALL end up BEING ANSWERABLE OF OUR ACTS ! and that day , our capacity of Compassion for others when they needed it will speak for us , or shaw us how mercyless we were !

Many religious people dedicate their life to supportng inmates and their families , testifying how good some inmates are , while some guards don't even seem to KNOW that such thing called HUMANITY , EXISTS !

Do You truly believe Mrs Lehmberg such people , as this compassionate people are wrong ? and inhuman " Justice " and those serving it are right ?

Time anyway , and people of good will , who realise that the actual US " Justice system " needs to improve , like Senator Jim Webb , who got the Congress 's Agreement to reform it will bring this NECESSARY IMPROVMENT of the US JUSTICE SYSTEM . AND GREAT TALENTED PEOPLE SUCH AS BRYAN STEVENSON ARE WORKING FOR A MORE HUMAN AND ADAPTED JUSTICE IN USA , AND THEIR COUNTRY , WHO IS AWARDING PEOPLE OF OTHER COUNTRIES SUCH AS KIRAN BEDI , WHO COMPLETLY TRANSFORMED THE WORSE INDIAN JAIL WITH 10 000 INMATES IN A PLACE OF SELF IMPROVEMENT FOR EVERYONE WAS RECENTLY AT THE WHITE HOUSE AND TIME AND INTERNATIONAL PRESSION FOR MORE HUMAN TREATMENTS WILL INEVITABLY BRING USA TO ABOLISH DEATH PENALTY : YOU CAN TAKE YOUR TICKET TO THIS HISTORICAL SPEED TRAIN , OR YOU CAN STAY BEHIND , WITH THOSE WHO MISSED THEIR CHANCE : many judges who conducted inmates to the death chamber are filled with grief , regreats and nightmares as some War Vets do ! and when such feelings screw people's mind Mrs Lehmberg , it is their turn to be at permanent unrest , like a man counting his last days , and minutes to live which is a cruelty that only as Jesus Christ said , people who don't know what they're doing , inflict on others ! And I wish You , Mrs Lehmberg , if ever that day had to come to You that You'll find people around You with sufficient Compassion , to give You a hand and help You !

With Best Regards to You !

Sylvie Calvet

ps : You're invited anytime to visit my Facebook page

Galia Harrington

I want to thank the Editorial Board of the Austin American Statesman for coming out with their editorial "Life without parole would be fair punishment for David Lee Powell" (6-7-10). I have followed the tragedy of this case and support commuting his and all prisoners on death row's sentences to life without parole. With each death sentence and eventual execution you drag two families into a horrible cycle of grief and suffering as well as each citizen of Texas. We have seemingly become anesthetized by the all-too-frequent execution announcement in the media. Each execution kills just a little more of our humanity and weakens our capacity for mercy, either to give or to receive mercy. Shakespeare wrote, "The quality of mercy is not strain'd. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath. It is twice blest: It blesseth him that gives and him that takes."

Sally Novell (2)

After watching the video of Bruce & Judy Mills discussing the execution of David Powell, my heart just broke for them. They did not expect satisfaction, nor closure. They did not appear to want David Powell dead, even. hey just wanted the legal process to be over! And who can blame them - but my God! Is this what executions are really all about? Must we still a beating heart - Powell's - in order to stop the legal system from tormenting everyone involved? This is just so sickeningly tragic for all.

Frances Morey to Val Escobar at Austin Police Department

Dear Mrs. Escobar,

I wonder about the wisdom of having a chartered bus to carry people to the execution of David Powell. Is there concern that there would not be enough show of support for the execution? If people need to attend couldn't they make their own arrangements? The celebratory spirit of transporting the police and the victims families to this sad event as though they were taking a trip to a casino reminds me of a story I heard about the last lynching that took place in Waco, Tx in the early 1900's. Some 10,000 people showed up--whole families from miles around. Vendors set up stands, photographers had camera's in place--this "spontaneous" public lynching had somehow transformed into a well attended festival. Should anyone derive gratification out of the slaughter of this man? After all this time David is somehow still sane enough to be contrite and deeply regretful that he caused the families their pain. Isn't this modern day lynching just as likely to open up their old wounds as it is to make them feel whole again? The killing of David Powell certainly does not bring back Ralph Ablanado. Texas has officially murdered 419 people since the death penalty was brought back. We are all implicated as the state has become most prodigious serial killer of all. Even Henry Lee Lucas was granted a reprieve. Is ending the life of one police officer so much worse a crime than the lives of the estimated hundred women ended by Lucas? Whoever rejoices at this execution is rotten to the core. That is what was written in the San Antonio Express News at the time of the execution of Ethyl and Julius Rosenberg. It is just as true for the ending of the life of David Lee Powell--indeed, of all who are executed by the state.


Frances Morey

Tom Blackwell (via Frances Morey)

June 6, 2010

The relatives of Powell's victim from 1978 would have an immense mental relief, and personal peace, if they had the strength to announce they forgive Powell, and announce that they no longer want him executed. Maybe they just don't realize what a position of forgiveness would do for them.

They should also know that Powell is locked up for the rest of his life, is no longer on drugs, no longer has any access to a weapon, has already had 32 years of punishment in jail, is no longer a threat to society (either inside or outside of prison) and is helping other prisoners learn to read, etc.

Jude Filler - Opinion Editorial (unpublished)

We don't like to think about our own deaths, but you, I, everyone will die. Life is short. Will you contribute to the world, will you concentrate on career and family? What is it that makes your life meaningful? This question has been heavy on me for some years, since a rare, terminal cancer disabled me. I can tell you the day my cancer metastasized -- David Powell was sentenced to be executed. As his close friend, I was hit with a tsunami of grief the like of which I had never known existed. It turns out massive grief can cause one's immune system to crater and mine did.

All of us are going to die, but on that day humans had decided -- methodically and, to our shame, politically -- to kill another human, my dear friend David. How many other people's lives were hurt by this event - jurors, family members of both sides, court officials? Nothing good comes from this process - millions of dollars, which could have been spent on care and rehabilitation and victim family support were thrown down the hole of political revenge. Life is too short and too precious for us to engage in this fruitless ritual.

Leaders who should be showing us better ways to live our short lives need to step forward. There is copious evidence that our courts do not dispense anything like the fair justice we like to believe exists. The DA knows this; the judges know this, but they live a political life. Many of us look to these civic leaders for guidance in things legal. The thing is, the DA and the judges are people, too, and they need to remember they are going to die soon, like the rest of us, in the blink of an eye. Will they have made this a better world by standing up for a better justice system or will they have gone along to get along?

Jude Filler, formerly Executive Director - Texas Alliance for Human Needs

Deathwatch-Stardoll Blog

June 4, 2010

“Clemency for Ohio inmate; will Texas follow suit?”


Ohio governor Ted Strickland had a rare moment of mercy on Friday when he granted clemency to death row inmate Richard Nields. Nields was convicted of the 1997 murder of his girlfriend during an argument.

Under Ohio law, the death penalty is only recommended to juries if the defendant was also guilty of a serious secondary offense such as arson, aggravated robbery or rape. Nields was found guilty of aggravated robbery on the grounds that he also stole the victim's car and some money from her purse. However, the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals questioned whether Nields deserved the death penalty under Ohio law.

"This case is not about robbery," wrote Justice Paul Pfeifer, who helped to write Ohio's death penalty law as a state legislator in 1981. "It is about alcoholism, rage and rejection and about Nields' inability to cope with any of them."

For the second time during his time in office, Gov. Strickland has followed the recomendation of Ohio's Parole Board.

"Based on this review, I concur with the rationale and recommendation of the Ohio Parole Board majority," the Governor said.

I wonder whether Texas Governor Rick Perry will follow Strickland's excellent example and grant clemency to Texas death row inmate David Powell. Powell's execution is scheduled for June 15th - for a crime he committed more than 3 DECADES ago.

The official petition urging the governor to spare Powell is sitting at over 1500 signatures - including Sister Helen Prejean, and Ron Hampton, who is the executive director of the National Black Police Association. Not all police show as much compassion as Hampton - the Austin police force is actually planning a FIELD TRIP to Powell's execution (see their website austinpolice.com if you don't believe me). Powell was convicted of the murder of Austin police officer Ralph Ablanedo, and it's perfectly understandable that Austin police feel great anger towards Powell... But we are a civillized nation and there's a LIMIT.

After all, when man strikes you on one cheek, you should turn and offer him the other. Although most people wouldn't be that good-willed, that does not mean that when man strikes one cheek we should turn and inject him with a fatal dose of potassium chloride!!! Find THAT in the bible, and THEN tell me it condones the death penalty!

Texas has already executed 220 people since Rick Perry became governor. Surely that's enough. Like I said, there is a limit. Perry has condoned the murders of more people than probably most of Texas's entire death row put together.

We can only hope that Perry will feel Powell has been punished enough after 32 years on death row and grant him clemency. Somehow, though, I doubt it. I personally think Perry has something wrong with his head. But I'm no doctor.

If you haven't already, please sign the official petition to spare David Powell. You can find the link at the right hand side of the blog.

Amnesty International June 3, 2010 USA: People can change. Will Texas? After three decades on death row, clemency sought on rehabilitation grounds. (10 Page Report on David Powell) http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR51/048/2010/en

Robert Leleux

June 1, 2010

“Fourteen Days to Live”

Texas Observer


Hello Friends,

Some of you might have seen the film clip I posted last week--of Sissy Farenthold talking about the pending execution of her friend David Powell. Well, you might also want to check this out: It's a heart-rending clip of David Powell's mother, Marjorie Powell, talking about her son's life. David's execution date is set for June 15th, 2010. That's two weeks from today. So, unless the clemency board decides otherwise, David has fourteen days left on this earth.

You know, we're all Texans here, folks. The death penalty is something we all live with, and like anything you live with, you become more or less accustomed to it. But if you allow your mind to reboot for a moment, stop and consider the strangeness of knowing that a man will (most likely) be killed, in Huntsville, by the state of Texas, two weeks from today. I mean, how weird is that? To know when and how a person named David Powell will be killed.

One of the luckiest, most unbelievable things that's ever happened to me is that I've gotten to be pals with Sissy Farenthold. And since Sissy is my own, personal Mick Jagger, I can never quite get over the fact that I can just call her up, and shoot the breeze. Or spend the day with her at the Last Call sale at Neiman's.

All of which sounds name-droppy, but that's honestly not how I mean it. All I mean is that Sissy, a good friend of mine, has been good friends with David for over twenty years. For as long as I've known her, she's been talking about "my friend, David." Over lunch, or in the car, she's told me, "I went to see David the other day, and he said 'blah blah blah.'" Or, "David recommended such-and- such article to me the last time I visited him, and I really enjoyed it."

And I just cannot convey to you the profound strangeness of knowing that my friend's friend is, most likely, going to be killed two weeks from today. In a particular room, in a particular fashion, and totally against his will.

I mean, it seems to me that one of the most basic experiences in life is coping with the imminent vagary of mortality. We wake up in the morning with the foggy, distant awareness that we don't know what the future holds. Remember that old song, "Enjoy Yourself, It's Later Than You Think?" Well, we all live with the wisdom of that tucked deeply inside of us. Because, who knows? Your best friend could get hit by a bus. Your husband could drop dead of a heart attack. A plane could crash; a bridge could collapse. These are the absolutely horrible, absolutely true thoughts we're all forced to live with (and suppress) every day. It's part of being human.

And that's one of the weirdest, most inhuman aspects of the death penalty--that Sissy, and Marjorie Powell, and David himself, know when he's going to die.

And how strange is that?

How strange is it that it's actually precisely as late as David thinks it is?

Imagine what that would be like. Imagine what it would be like (weird, weird torture) to wake up every day knowing that you're one day closer to your death. Or your friend's death. Or your son's.

And not in some far-off, Jean-Paul Sartre sense. I mean, like, THE CLOCK IS TICKING.

Fourteen days left to live.

Feel free to write, and tell me what you think, folks. And check out the website devoted to David's case: www.letdavidlive.org

Love Y'all,


Luke Redfield

May 31, 2010


by luke redfield

young man fell in with the wrong crowd
we all done things of which we ain't proud
he may have not been right in the mind
and that don't pardon his heinous crime
but david lee powell has shown his remorse
for the night in '68 when he went off course

ralph ablanedo was a good man
his call of duty was patrolling the land
pulled david over, was fatefully shot
now killing david won't bring back the cop
the officer's gone, his family has lost
we can't forget what christ has taught

you can't forget what the good book says
you can't forget what forgiveness does
you can't forget if you kill this new man
he's already killed who he was

sentenced to life, then sentenced to death
prison has taken thirty years of his breath
solitary confinement for a whole decade
seven guards testified that david has changed
he teaches inmates how to write and read
counsels drug addicts and they come clean

composing music in his cell
he keeps his mind free from his confined hell
he looks within, where only he can go
if he's truly sorry, only he knows
but if you take this man's life
it's no different than what he did that night

you can't forget what the good book says
you can't forget what forgiveness does
you can't forget if you kill this new man
he's already killed who he was

on june 15th, 2010
the state of texas will make a human life end
to the one scheduled to do the deed:
flip the switch or inject lethally
you're just "doing your job," getting paid by the state
how can you be employed by hate?

texas, y'all claim to be a righteous place
followers, believers in amazing grace
but when it comes to eye for an eye
you're still living in the caveman times
you're still living in the caveman times
pretty soon, pretty soon, we'll all be blind

you can't forget what the good book says
you can't forget what forgiveness does
you can't forget if you kill this new man
he's already killed who he was

would jesus kill david lee?
would the buddha seek vengeance so obsessively?
would gandhi take this man's life?
would martin luther king condone it as right?
would rick perry or george w. bush
have the guts to be the ones to give that button a push?

when you're in the chamber, about to stop his heart
look around and see all of that which you're a part
when you're face to face, and he gives you the nod
and you're looking directly into the face of God
if you take his life, you take your brother, your mother,
your sister, your father, your daughter, your son
'cause you know, inside, we all are one


Luke Redfield


Lucinda Williams

May 30, 2010

Website: http://lucindawilliams.com/

PSA: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZmQeGWKriE

Stop the Execution of David Powell in Texas

David Lee Powell is scheduled to be executed in Texas on June 15 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, has been on death row for 32 years. Call on the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to halt this execution.

Visit Amnesty's Call to Action Page to send a letter to the Texas Board of Pardons to Halt this Execution!

Michael King

May 21, 2010

Point Austin: Let David Live

The execution of David Powell will not serve justice

Austin Chronicle


How much pain is enough to make up for irreparable harm? – David Powell

If all goes according to plan, David Lee Powell will be executed by the state of Texas, in our names, on June 15. That's the date set by state District Judge Mike Lynch at the request of Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg.

This is an execution more than 32 years in the making, and the story exhibits the tortured legal history of many Texas capital cases. The 27-year-old Powell was first convicted of the May 18, 1978, murder of 26-year-old Austin Police Officer Ralph Ablanedo in September 1978. The first conviction was overturned for legal reasons that included prosecutorial misconduct; he was tried and convicted again in 1991, and retried for sentencing only in 1999. Only then was it revealed that Travis County prosecutors (among them then young Assistant D.A. Lehmberg) had concealed potentially exculpatory information from his defense, including their belief that a chief state witness, Powell's companion Sheila Meinert, had participated in Ablanedo's murder. Nevertheless, Powell was again sentenced to die and has since exhausted all of his appeals.

Unless Lehmberg should decide to withdraw the execution request or the Board of Pardons and Paroles recommends clemency to Gov. Rick Perry and he concurs – none of which is at all likely – Powell will be executed. Had he been sentenced to life imprisonment in 1978, Powell would have been eligible for parole in 20 years. After 32 years on death row, much of it in solitary confinement, Powell will have effectively endured – in our names – both a life and a death sentence. As Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer has opined, "Where a delay, measured in decades, reflects the State's own failure to comply with the Constitution's demands, the claim that time has rendered the execution inhuman is a particularly strong one."

A Changed Man

Powell's crime was locally sensational, an assault-rifle execution of a police officer during a seemingly routine traffic stop, followed by a brief chase and another shoot-out with Austin Police. Ablanedo left a wife and two children, and the prosecutor's closing argument was attended by dozens of uniformed police officers wearing mourning ribbons. Even in execution-shy Travis County, Powell's sentence was virtually inevitable.

Although there was little doubt of Powell's guilt, there should have been considerable uncertainty about the degree of his culpability. There was the clouded issue of "deliberateness" or premeditation; expert testimony that at the time of the crime he was deeply addicted to methamphetamine and likely suffering from amphetamine psychosis – the chemical equivalent of insanity – was ignored, as was the fact that he had never previously committed violence. The Texas death penalty requires a jury's conviction of "future dangerousness" – prosecutors summoned psychiatrists nominally to determine Powell's sanity for trial, then used their testimony to assert Powell's propensity for violence.

Yet Powell had never been violent before the Ablanedo murder, and by the time of his final sentencing, in 1999, he had spent nearly a dozen years in prison without ever engaging in violence. Testimony in his defense included not only former gubernatorial candidate Sissy Farenthold and attorney general candidate David Van Os (who knew Powell as a young man) but also several prison guards who testified that he was not violent and presented no future threat. We now have 32 years of evidence that, despite that sentence, and now a dozen years of solitary confinement due to prison policy changes, Powell has presented no threat to anyone at all and has served his time as a model prisoner.

Once, there might have been doubt concerning Powell's "future dangerousness" – now there is none. When we execute Powell next month, we will be executing a different person than the one who, in an irretrievable moment of mad frenzy, committed his terrible crime. If nothing else, Powell's execution will confirm that the Texas death penalty is not about justice but revenge.

Who We're Killing

Fair-minded people can certainly hold differing beliefs about the death penalty, though in my experience the more people learn about its actual practice, the less likely they are to believe that it serves justice, certainly in any equitable way. The political stakes (especially in a sensational case like Powell's) are inevitably so high that prosecutors persistently bend the rules to get convictions. The consequent appeals strain and distort the justice system and, more cruelly, the innocent family members on all sides. Restorative justice is essentially impossible, since to avoid a death sentence the accused must not acknowledge guilt or remorse of any kind. Only when his appeals were completely exhausted was Powell able to write an eloquent letter of apology to the Ablanedo family.

"I am infinitely sorry that I killed Ralph Ablanedo," Powell wrote. "I stole from you and the world the precious and irreplaceable life of a good man."

Beyond this, Powell has been an exemplary prisoner for 32 years, teaching other inmates, consulting with experts on the Texas criminal justice system, testifying on the rights of prisoners with mental disabilities, and more. He has managed to make something useful and important of his life even in the extreme confinement of death row and the Texas prison system; to kill him now is to surrender to the nihilistic belief that there is no such thing as redemption.

But whether or not you believe that we should execute Powell, you should spend some time reviewing the background and history of his case, available at the website LetDavidLive.org, including an extended video interview with Powell on death row, members of his family, and people who have known him well. The history of the Texas death penalty is a lengthy one of obscure names and dates; it's a little less abstract when you get to know the person you're going to kill. It's undeniable that Powell took a life – "I'm so so sorry for having killed Ralph Ablanedo and stolen from him everything that he might have become," he says in the interview, "and stolen everything that he was from the people that loved him." What possible good can come from adding another name, and the inevitably reverberating sorrow, to the long list of the dead?

In December of 2009, David Powell wrote the following letter to the family of Ralph Ablanedo; Ablanedo’s wife, Judy, later married Austin Police Officer Bruce Mills, who also adopted their two children .Powell's letter to the family of Ralph Ablanedo is posted with this story here.

More information about David Powell's case and suggestions for potential public action are available at www.letdavidlive.org.

Sarah Hickman

April 26, 2010


I do not believe in the death penalty. There have been innocent people executed for crimes they did not commit, there is no closure, and there is only a continued spiral of violence, heartache and loss for ALL the families involved in BOTH sides of the situation. As someone who has toured Texas to try and start the dialogue about what the death penalty is, why having the death penalty doesn't discourage those who may murder, discussing the loss and cost to every Texas citizen, I hope that we can stop the madness and allow everyone to know there are options to killing another person. And, as a Christian, Jesus is the greatest example of why the death penalty should be abolished. If you don't know much about the death penalty, please educate yourself on all its complexities and sides so that you can make an informed decision on what it means to have it, and have conversations with those around you. Texas is number FOUR in the world in terms of executions, right behind China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and then, yes, TEXAS. We must learn to be progressive in dealing with this archaic ideology, and it starts with us all, each and every one of us, not being afraid to learn and talk about it.

Thank you.

Sara Hickman, Official State Musician of Texas, May 2010-May 2011


Larry Bethune

March 18, 2010


I know this note comes at a busy time for Jews and Christians, but time is short. I am asking you to help me save a life that matters to me, a life I believe is worth saving, the life of David Powell who was convicted of the 1978 slaying of Austin police officer Ralph Ablanedo.

I have been opposed to the death penalty all my life. This case is especially close because I visited with David Powell frequently during his appeal in Travis County. He has been incarcerated since 1978 on death row. Recently, Travis County DA Rosemary Lehmberg has set a date of June 15, 2010 for David’s execution.

I have been impressed with David’s redemption and contribution through the long years since his crime. I deeply believe he is no continuing threat and therefore should not be executed under the legal rules of our system. And I believe his outreach to the family of the police officer he killed has been genuine and sincere.

You can learn more about this case by reviewing the four parts of the documentary “Saving David Powell” on YouTube. This documentary was organized by Sally Norvell, who is available to come to your congregation or group gathering to show the DVD and discuss the case. (I have a copies of the DVD which may be picked up at our church office if you have use for one immediately. I also have print copies of the documents in the attached .zip file.)

I am writing you to ask your help. May I request three actions on your part?

First, would you write DA Lehmberg a personal note asking her not to proceed with David’s execution? A sample letter along with numerous other files regarding this case are attached to this email in both Mac and PC formats.

Second, would you set a date to have Ms. Norvell present the DVD to your congregation or a group within it and discuss this case and the death penalty in Texas?

Third, would you share this e-mail with any other colleagues or religious leaders you think might be interested?

While I know the odds are against us in Texas, I hope we might appeal to DA Lehmberg’s compassion or at least demonstrate there is a political cost from the other direction, from those of us who are weary with our state’s execution mill. Thank you for your consideration and action. I appreciate the possible personal political costs of action on this and your courage in risking it. And as always, I thank you for your continuing ministry for peace and justice and spiritual wholeness in Austin. Please call or email me if you have any questions.

God’s peace,

Larry Bethune

Galia Harrington

Feb 11, 2010

Death Row humanity

Re: Jan. 27 article "Death row inmate apologizes to family of officer he killed in 1978."

LTTE Austin American Statesman

I do not know David Lee Powell, yet I know people who do. Stories told by people living both inside and outside of Death Row testify to lives shaped for the better by a person who did something completely unthinkable in a drug-induced state more than half his lifetime ago.

Powell taught one illiterate inmate to read; he now writes beautiful poetry. He taught physics and metaphysics to another to expand the mind of a troubled young man beyond his isolated existence.

It's difficult to accept the humanity of those on death row, and so acts of kindness and goodness by inmates may seem hard to understand. Yet Powell has shown remorse, compassion and humanity.

Sally Norvell

February 9, 2010

Powell and the death penalty

Re: Jan. 28 article "Inmate sends apology letter to relatives of slain officer."

LTTE Austin American Statesman

The death penalty does not work. We execute innocent people; we park people on death row for decades, bouncing from court to court playing pin the tail on the convict at the taxpayers' expense. A death trial costs about $2.5 million more than life without parole.

Capital punishment is a shameful relic of our past, and, like slavery, needs to abolished. Thirty-two years is more than a life sentence in many states and countries. Where does it say you can get life and then get publicly executed after you've served your life sentence?

David Powell, after serving 32 hard years on death row, should not be executed. It would be the definition of cruel and unusual punishment.

Sally Norvell