My granddaughter was convicted under Texas Law of Parties and sentenced to life without parole. The DA got the jury to believe she planned a murder. She had no previous involvement with the criminal justice system. She refused to take a plea deal because she is innocent and fully expected to be found not guilty.
My daughter Erin has served 7+ years on a 39 year sentence for murder. She did not touch the victim, and did not mastermind his murder as the DA seemed to believe. She took a plea bargain after being threatened by the DA to be charged with capital murder which would have automatically demanded a life without parole or death penalty if found guilty. We are hopeful that by God’s grace something will change that will bring her home to her 2 children, and to us, her parents.
Jason seen above at ages 12, 17, and 40, was sentenced at age 18 to 50 years in prison by the Law of Parties. During his 22 years of incarceration he has completed many programs and earned many certifications, showing the transformation he has undergone.
*Mentorship of youth at Bexar County Jail
*Christian Leadership training
*Creative Writing thru UT Austin
*Published in VICE magazine
*Bridges to Life Program
It is time to bring Jason home and let him be a contributing citizen on the outside.
My husband Miguel was sentenced to death at age 17 thru the Law of Parties, for 3 murders he didn’t commit. His case was featured on a show called ‘I Am A Killer’ (episode 4). He took it to trial because he didn’t commit the murders, but they sentenced him to death. He got a harsher sentence because he didn’t take a plea deal. Miguel’s death sentence was finally commuted to life. The man responsible for the murders, Miguel’s codefendant, escaped and went on the run for a few years and when they caught him, he took a plea deal for 41 years. He finally confessed, more than 28 years after the killings. He will be able to get out in 13 more years, while Miguel remains in prison for crimes he did not do.
My husband Kenneth was
sent to prison at age 22 under the Law of Parties. He was participating in a robbery in which someone was shot and killed. Kenneth wasn’t even in the room when it happened. Also, there was testimony at his trial that if my husband had refused to participate in the robbery, the others were going to kill him. The guy that testified and said that received 15 years and is free now. Kenneth received a life sentence and will be eligible for parole after 40 years. He has been incarcerated for 21.
Ryan Hanson, shown above in 1997, 1991, and 2019, was asleep in an unfamiliar house after a night of drinking with people he had just met. He was wakened by the man who had made the arrangements and found he had been assaulting their host with a hammer. While Ryan watched, he then slit the man's throat. Ryan gave an extended statement to police, wanting to be helpful and thinking it was in his own best interest to do so. Detectives manipulated the statement against Ryan. Although the prosecutor noted at trial that Ryan was not the actual killer, he was found guilty and charged with murder under the Law of Parties. He has now served 21 years flat on a life sentence. His accomplishments while in TDCJ include an Associate of Arts Degree from Central Texas College and a Diploma in Pastoral Ministries from the Southern Baptist Convention, as well as several awards for writing.
My daughter Amanda, standing behind her daughter above, was sent to prison at the age of 18 on a 40-to-life sentence on the Law of Parties. Her daughter was 1 year old; she is now 17. Five kids were charged in a murder. Two of the boys were guilty of the crime and sent to prison for life without parole. Two of the co-defendants...1 female, 1 male... turned states witnesses. They are home now. My daughter did not become a witness against anyone, was not going to lie for the prosecution. (Unfortunately, had she lied, she would be home now too.) My daughter was no more guilty, and maybe a little less involved, than the two that are home, but she believed in the truth and in our justice system. How stupid and naive were we?
Randy Wood, seen above with wife Larissa, was 17 years old in 1996 when he went out drinking with 3 friends…one age 19, another 17 year old, and a girl, 16. The horrible evening ended with Randy and the other 17 year old following the instructions of the older teen to drive the unconscious girl to another location, where he shot and killed her. The shooter pled guilty…to both the murder and another charge of conspiracy and was sentenced to life with a minimum sentence of 30 years flat time. Randy and the other teen went to trial and were sentenced to life with a minimum sentence of 40 years flat time. The shooter will be eligible to see parole 10 years sooner than the non-shooter participants. Read more about Randy’s story here: https://www.texasmonthly.com/articles/a-question-of-mercy/
In 2015 my husband was convicted and sentenced to 50 years for injury to a child under the law of parties. His girlfriend of less than a year had brutally beaten and killed her 4-year-old son. She was sentenced to only 50 years for murder because she pled down. Michael was not home the night in question. They had got into an argument, he left for the night, and she took it out on her son. She first claimed it was Michael, but changed her story a dozen times. She claimed that he was abusive to her and her son, and that she was scared of him. She had multiple CPS cases open before she met him and continued to move around so no follow up could be made.
My husband was interrogated without counsel, even though he asked for an attorney. Witnesses were threatened, helpful evidence went missing, and witnesses committed perjury on the stand. Michael was tricked by his attorney into taking a plea deal with the promise he wouldn’t get more than 20 years.
Kenneth Foster was 19 years old in 1997 when he drove a car for three other friends out on an evening of aimlessness and mischief. At one point the young man in the front passenger seat got out and committed a robbery. Driving away from that incident, the robber saw a woman he wanted to talk to. Kenneth and the others waited while he got out to talk. They saw the woman’s boyfriend come out and get into an argument with the robber, who shot him to death.
The two men in the back seat received prison sentences. By Law of Parties, Kenneth was sentenced to death for murder along with the actual killer. In 2007 Kenneth’s death sentence was finally commuted, only six hours before he was scheduled to die. He will not be eligible for parole until 2036, almost 40 years after the killing he was wrongfully convicted of. A large international community of advocates has been campaigning for Kenneth, before and after his commutation. They believe, and we at DropLoPTexas believe, that he has served more than enough time in punishment for the actual wrongdoing he is responsible for.
You can see more of Kenneth’s story in Episode 2 of the Netflix series “I Am a Killer.” Visit these resources to find links to magazine articles and radio interviews with Kenneth, which have details of his story and more explanation of the Law of Parties.
Aaron's story is told here by his sister. "My brother Aaron Vega has been in prison for 16 years. He was picked up from high school at the age of 19. He was accused of being the mastermind behind a murder/robbery that took place in our hometown. My brother did not "cooperate" with the investigators, so they told him they were going to give him all the charges. There was no evidence whatsoever; they charged him just from testimonies of guys who took plea deals to avoid getting time. They all had records of car theft, burglary and drug related charges. My brother had a clean record. The phone records showed my brother was home when the murder happened. His girlfriend at the time was interrogated but her testimony was omitted in court. One of the guys who was actually involved and pled guilty got 20 years and got out about two years ago. My brother pled not guilty and received life in prison with 40 years to parole. The other guy asked to be a witness in my brother’s trial. They didn't use him, yet he was the only eyewitness. The real mastermind/murderer was a member of a cartel and went on to kill two police and several others in Texas and Mexico.
We have been fighting my brother’s case from the beginning. We won the appeal and the DA appealed that. It then went to the higher courts and they said there was insufficient evidence for capital murder but enough for conspiracy. Conspiracy was never brought up in Aaron’s trial. This system is so corrupt. We know one day my brother will be back and get to finally be with his daughter and our family. He has endured so much in prison that none of us will ever be able to comprehend. Nothing can ever change all the memories lost but we pray that one day justice will be served and he can start a new life."
James was 18 in 2006, when he waited at a bus stop while his friend entered a store to rob the clerk. His friend had a gun, argued with the clerk and killed her. The gunman confessed to being the shooter and James was not placed inside the store by any testimony or evidence. The gunman is serving a life sentence, but may someday see parole. James' sentence is life without parole. Only 32 now, James has serious health issues, some acquired after his incarceration, and which, according to his family are being poorly treated or ignored by TDCJ.
Larry Barker was 19 years old when he joined two friends to steal a car. The car’s owner was killed. The Texas City Sun reported Larry’s conviction for capital murder on the front page of its September 2, 1994 edition. The prosecutor is quoted there as saying Barker “didn’t actually use the weapon” that killed the car’s owner. The actual killers took plea bargains to lighten their sentences and are now out of prison. Barker continues to serve the 40 years of a capital life sentence which must pass before he can even request to see the parole board. Barker maintained his innocence and sought a trial instead of taking a plea. The prosecution asked for the life sentence under Texas’ Law of Parties…a classic example of overreach by a prosecutor…a “message” to other defendants and attorneys…take the plea; don’t make us go to trial.
Thettis L. Howard has been incarcerated for 27 years for a crime he did not commit. In 1993 he was implicated in a robbery-murder in Houston, TX. Upon hearing police were looking for him, he turned himself in to authorities to clear his name. He went to the police station alone without an attorney present, representing himself... a clear mistake on his part. He had no idea what he was up against.
Thettis was interrogated for many hours with detectives trying to make him confess to being involved in the crime. He gave two statements to authorities. In the first one he truthfully denied any involvement which made detectives mad and more threatening. They continued to press him until they wore him down with threats and intimidation. They got him to implicate himself out of fear and wanting to end the harassment.
Thettis was then arrested and charged with “Capital Murder.” he was shocked and devastated. He hadn’t robbed anyone nor caused anyone’s death. Police later arrested and charged three suspects with Capital Murder.
Thettis was later told they confessed, yet he was not set free because of the false coerced second statement he was forced to make. His state-appointed attorney became part of the plan for the state to convict him than one who would fight for his freedom.
All these years Thettis has been locked up and torn from his family He was charged under the “Law of Parties” and sentenced to Life and will not be eligible for consideration for parole until serving 35 years. The legal system continues this kind of cruel and unjust practice. This is definitely a travesty of justice.
Chelsea is from Fort Worth, Tx and was sentenced to death at only 21 years of age because the DA convinced the jury that she was the mastermind that planned a murder. Using the law of parties, the DA made a "deal" with the admitted killer to spare her life in exchange for her "testimony" to convict as many others as possible, including Chelsea. Despite the fact that there was zero physical evidence that placed Chelsea anywhere at the scene, no fingerprints, no DNA, no fiber, nothing - Chelsea was nonetheless convicted and sentenced to death based solely on the law of parties and this testimony. Chelsea has been and will continue fighting to prove her innocence ever since.
A friend whom Celeste describes as a stalker shot and killed Celeste's husband in 1993 and claimed that Celeste had requested the murder. In exchange for her testimony, the shooter was sentenced to 20 years and guaranteed to see parole after only 10. The actual killer in the incident is out of prison while Celeste was given a capital life sentence...no possibility of parole before serving 40 years.
While in prison, Celeste has authored/co-authored four books, including three prison cookbooks and an autobiography. She has completed an Associate of Arts degree and an Associate of Science Business Administration degree from Central Texas College, and a Bachelor of Science in Bus. Ad., emphasis in management, from Texas A&M University, and is working on a Master's Degree in Biblical Studies from Agape Bible College. She has also accrued an impressive list of certifications in a wide variety of fields.
Celeste and her family believe that Texas' unjust law of parties/felony murder rule is imprisoning her and many others who are no threat to their communities.
The Celeste Beard Johnson Story
The Exclusive Biography