Jeff Wood: On Death Row in Texas for 18 Years Despite Killing No One
by Stephen Lendman
Wood is one of thousands of victims of criminal injustice in America - in his case languishing on death row for a murder he didn’t commit.
In January 1996, he and Daniel Reneau were involved in robbing a Kerrville, TX convenience store. Reneau went inside. Wood stayed in a pickup truck outside.
When the clerk, Kris Keeran, didn’t hand over the store’s safe, Reneau lethally shot him. After hearing the gunshot, Wood entered the store, helped Reneau remove the safe and surveillance video camera, destroying the footage.
Both men were arrested, prosecuted, convicted of murder and sentenced to death - in Wood’s case, even though he committed no capital offense.
Reneau was executed in 2002. Wood awaits execution under the Texas felony murder statute.
The state’s Law of Parties applies in his case. It holds a person criminally responsible for the actions of another if he or she aided, abetted, or conspired with the principal offender - even if not involved felony murder.
Hours before Wood’s scheduled execution, San Antonio federal Judge Elsa Alcala ordered a stay to allow time for a hearing to determine if he’s mentally competent. She went further saying:
“I write separately because I would also remand claims five, six, and seven, in which applicant alleges that his participation in the offense and his moral culpability are too minimal to warrant the death penalty, that evolving standards of decency now prohibit the execution of a person who was convicted as a party to a capital offense, and, more generally, that Texas’s death-penalty scheme should be declared unconstitutional because it is arbitrary and fails to target the worst of the worst offenders, in violation of the Eighth Amendment.”
Commenting on the stay, Wood’s attorney, Jared Tyler, said “(t)he court did the right thing…Justice is not served by executing Mr. Wood, who was outside the building when (murder was committed) and who had no criminal history.”
Three jurors during his trial no longer support a death sentence. Nor does State Representative David Simpson, asking “does one who did not pull the trigger deserve the same penalty as the one who did?
“In this case, I believe the answer is no,” he said. “I have seen enough questions to warrant advocating that his life be spared…Erring on the side of life is far better than to wrongly take another life.”
He and other Texas lawmakers asked the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole to recommend gubernatorial commutation of Wood’s sentence, sparing his life while keeping him imprisoned.
After his execution was rescheduled for August 24, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled 7 - 2 for putting it on hold.
Majority justices questioned testimony against him by Dr. James Grigson, a man known as Dr. Death, expelled from the American Psychiatric Association in 1995, yet continued to testify against felony murder defendants in hundreds of cases.
The web site savejeffwood.com follows his case.
From 1976 through July 15, 2016, 1,437 individuals were executed in America - Texas by far the most aggressive state with 537.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at email@example.com.
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
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