Championing Justice for All

Dear Friends,

At Texas Defender Service, we save lives and reunite families. We lead with love, with creativity, and with passion for justice and for people.  We make an incredible impact, but to continue that impact we need your support. 

Our Light of Justice Luncheon, which will be held this year on October 19, 2023 from 12:00p-1:30p at the Four Seasons Hotel Houston, offers us a chance to gather in person to hear from experts and raise much-needed funds for our work. We hope you can join us! You can find out more and register here.

If you can’t be with us in person, would you consider donating to our 2023 Light of Justice campaign so we can continue to save lives and reunite families in Texas, Ground Zero of mass incarceration in the United States?

At TDS, we know that transformative change is possible in the State of Texas. We’ve made it happen. Texas Defender Service has an unmatched legacy of driving down new death sentences and executions in Texas—our country’s most voracious user of the death penalty. We’ve saved 39 lives since 2018, including six just this year. Earlier this summer, 12 jurors in Laredo, Texas agreed that our client deserved a sentence of life rather than death. And we have reformed laws for people facing the death penalty, including by winning five precedent-setting cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and successfully lobbying to pass groundbreaking legislation protecting the rights of people facing serious sentences.

Transformative change in Texas is not only possible; it is absolutely necessary if we are to end mass incarceration in our country and develop more humane approaches to dealing with violence. That’s why Texas Defender Service has expanded its impact to serve people facing excessive punishments beyond the death penalty. In 2023, we:

  • Advocated for people serving life sentences for crimes they had little or no involvement in under Texas’s incredibly harsh “law of the parties.”
  • Represented people convicted as children and unconstitutionally sentenced to juvenile life without parole.
  • Launched a new project to seek second chances for people who are legally eligible for parole and are eager to go home and become breadwinners, taxpayers, and community leaders.
  • Poured hundreds of hours into researching the causes of excessive incarceration and racially disproportionate sentencing in Texas—and what policymakers can do to transform them.

Our work makes a difference for real people. It has a proven track record of success. And it is not funded by the State of Texas. That’s why we need your support.

If you’re able to join us in person on October 19, 2023 in Houston, Texas at our Light of Justice event, we would love to see you there and celebrate our legacy and our future together (you can find out more about the event and register here). But if you can’t make it in person, will you give to our Light of Justice campaign so we can continue to champion justice for all in Texas?

With gratitude,

Burke Butler
Executive Director
Texas Defender Service

P.S. There is more information about our wonderful speaker, James Forman Jr., and our incredible honoree, Hogan Lovells LLP, below!

About Our Light of Justice Keynote Speaker, James Forman Jr.

James Forman Jr. is a leading critic of mass incarceration and its disproportionate impact on people of color.

Forman is a Professor of Law at Yale Law School and the author of Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America, which won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction and was named one of the 10 Best Books of the Year by the New York Times. 

In Locking Up Our Own, he seeks to understand the war on crime that began in the 1970s and why it was supported by many African American leaders in the nation’s urban centers. 

Reviewers have called the book “superb and shattering” (New York Times), “eloquent” and “sobering” (London Review of Books), and “moving, nuanced, and candid” (New York Review of Books). On Twitter, the New York Times book reviewer Jennifer Senior called Locking Up Our Own “the best book I’ve read this year.”

At Yale Law School, where he has taught since 2011, Forman teaches Constitutional Law and a course called Race, Class, and Punishment. Last year he took his teaching behind prison walls, offering a seminar called Inside-Out Prison Exchange: Issues in Criminal Justice, which brought together, in the same classroom, 10 Yale Law students and 10 men incarcerated in a CT prison.

About our Light of Justice Honoree Hogan Lovells

This year’s Light of Justice luncheon will honor Hogan Lovells with our Light of Justice award. This award recognizes the extraordinary contributions of Hogan Lovells partner Pieter Van Tol, as well as Catherine Bratic, Chloe Warnberg, and former associates Sydney Rupe and Jack Shaked. Van Tol and his team have led multiple lawsuits advocating for humane conditions of confinement for people incarcerated on death rows across the United States.  In January 2023, Hogan Lovells filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of all male individuals incarcerated on death row in Texas, alleging that the conditions under which they have been confined under prison regulations violate their state and federal constitutional rights. As Van Tol  said, “The conditions on death row in Texas have been characterized as some of the most brutal death row conditions in the country. The plaintiffs in this case are seeking relief from conditions that have been described as torture.”