Yesterday, Jeff Wood’s family and friends delivered about 10,500 petition signatures to the offices of Texas Governor Greg Abbott and separately to the office of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. Below is a media story of today’s delivery from KVUE in Austin, reported by Erin Jones, “Jeff Wood’s family trying to stop his execution“. You can still Sign the petition here. We will deliver additional signatures later.
Below are links to some media coverage of the case of Jeff Wood, whose August 24, 2016 scheduled execution we are working to stop. Find out how to help at http://savejeffwood.com/how-to-help/.
by Maurice Chammah, The Marshall Project, August 14, 2016
by Editorial Board, The Washington Post, August 14, 2016
by Jean-Cosme Delaloye, La Tribune de Genève, August 14, 2016
Houston Chronicle by Kristine Guerra, The Washington Post Updated 1:47 pm, Friday, August 12, 2016
Jeffery Wood on track to be the ‘least culpable person executed in the modern era of death penalty’
by Andrea Germanos, Common Dream staff writer, August 13, 2016
Daily Mail, August 13, 2016
by Danielle DeCourcey ATTN:, August 12, 2016
by Kristine Guerra, The Washington Post, August 12, 2016
The Washington Post Video, August 11, 2016.
by Jolie McCullough, Texas Tribune, Aug. 11, 2016
1200 News Radio, WOAI August 8, 2016
Baptist News Global, August 8, 2016
Editorial: Who is Texas executing now? A man with no direct involvement in the murder for which he’ll be put to death
by The Times Editorial Board, Los Angeles Times, August 5, 2016
Why is Texas Executing a Man Who Didn’t Kill Anyone?
Texas Standard, August 3, 2016
Jeff Wood was in the car when an acquaintance shot his friend, who was working as a gas station clerk in Kerrville. Now he’s on death row, sentenced under Texas’ “law of parties.”
Texasarkana Gazette, Editorial, August 3, 2016
Texas man soon to be executed never killed anybody (VIDEO)
OP-ED: JEFFREY WOOD WAS SENTENCED TO DEATH UNDER THE TEXAS LAW OF PARTIES. BUT SHOULD SOMEONE WHO DIDN’T PULL THE TRIGGER BE EXECUTED?
by SABINE HEINLEIN, Texas Monthly
Rally Questions Death Penalty for Texas Man Who Didn’t Pull Trigger, Texas Tribune, July 23, 2016
By Hooman Hedayati, July 22, 2016, Houston Chronicle
Permanent Link to Video on Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/video/national/this-man-may-be-executed-even-though-he-never-killed-anyone/2016/08/10/04077f04-5f2a-11e6-84c1-6d27287896b5_video.html
New Filing: TX Man Facing Execution Based on Testimony of Discredited Psychiatrist Must Have New, Fair Sentencing Hearing
Jeff Wood Was Not the Triggerman and Had No Previous Criminal History; Suffers from Borderline Intellectual Functioning and Mental Illness
Austin – Attorneys for Jeff Wood, who is scheduled for execution in Texas on August 24, 2016, filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus today with the 216th District Court requesting a new, fair sentencing hearing because Mr. Wood’s original sentencing hearing was prejudiced by the false and misleading testimony of the discredited psychiatrist Dr. James Grigson. The petition can be accessed here: http://bit.ly/2agwOye
Mr. Wood was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death under Texas’s “law of parties” after another man, Daniel Reneau, killed a convenience store clerk in Kerrville in 1996 while attempting to rob it. Mr. Reneau, who was executed in 2002, committed the crime while Mr. Wood was outside the building, sitting in a truck. (p. 1) Mr. Wood had no criminal history until he fell under the influence of Mr. Reneau a few months before the crime for which he is scheduled to be executed. (pp. 7, 15)
“The man who actually committed this crime was executed in 2002. Jeff Wood, who was not even in the building at the time of the crime, was sentenced to death after false expert testimony about his future dangerousness was presented at his capital murder trial. Justice will be served if Mr. Wood is spared from execution and given a new sentencing hearing,” said Jared Tyler, a Houston-based attorney who represents Mr. Wood. “I believe that no person in the history of the modern death penalty has been executed with as little culpability and participation in the taking of a life as Mr. Wood. In that respect, his execution may mark a national first.”
Executions under the law of parties or similar laws in other states are rare. The Death Penalty Information Center has confirmed only 10 cases, five of which were in Texas (http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/those-executed-who-did-not-directly-kill-victim).
In Mr. Wood’s trial, Dr. Grigson testified that Mr. Wood “certainly” would be criminally violent in the future based on a hypothetical given to him by the prosecution. (pp. 27-28) Dr. Grigson never personally evaluated Mr. Wood. (p. 68)
In 1995, three years before he testified in Mr. Wood’s trial, Dr. Grigson was expelled from the American Psychiatric Association and the Texas Society of Psychiatric Physicians for flagrant ethical violations involving this same conduct. (p. 26)
The organizations found these kinds of hypotheticals “grossly inadequate to elucidate a competent medical, psychiatric differential diagnostic understanding adequate for diagnosing a mental illness according to current standards.” (p. 25) Dr. Grigson was also faulted by the organizations for testifying that he could predict with certainty that a defendant would be criminally dangerous in the future. (p. 25)
In 2004, a federal judge found that Dr. Grigson had falsely testified in that case by “exaggerat[ing] the degree of his certainty that [the defendant] would be dangerous in the future.” (p. 50) The judge also found that Dr. Grison “inflat[ed] the number of defendants he determined would not likely be dangerous in the future” as “a conscious attempt to mislead the jury as to his objectivity.” (p. 50) A Texas judge has previously described Dr. Grigson’s testimony as “prejudicial beyond belief.” (p. 55) As a report analyzing the behavior of death-sentenced prisoners showed, Dr. Grigson has been proven wrong time and time again. (p. 22-24)
At Mr. Wood’s sentencing hearing, the jury also did not hear evidence that might have caused it to spare Mr. Wood’s life. Due to mental illness that should have rendered him incompetent to stand trial, Mr. Wood instructed his attorneys not to present any evidence on his behalf or cross-examine witnesses. (p. 40) The jury therefore never heard that Mr. Wood had borderline intellectual functioning and emotional and psychological impairments which rendered him vulnerable to Reneau. (pp. 2, 28) As a child, Mr. Wood suffered from several psychiatric disorders and was placed in special education. (pp. 3-5) A clinical neuropsychologist who tested Mr. Wood before trial found that he had significant cognitive impairments and had reading and spelling abilities ranging from the fourth to fifth grade levels. (pp. 30-31)
An earlier jury found Mr. Wood incompetent to stand trial based on clinical testimony about his delusional belief system. (p. 16) He was placed in the Vernon State Hospital, but was deemed competent 15 days later without having received any medication or treatment. (pp. 16-17)
Jeff Wood Did Not Kill Anyone. He was convicted under the law of parties
Family members and supporters of Jeff Wood, who is scheduled for execution in Texas on August 24, 2016, will rally in front of the Texas Governor’s Mansion at 1010 Colorado Street at 4 PM on Saturday, July 23, to urge Governor Abbott and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to commute Wood’s death sentence.
Jeff Wood was sentenced to death under the law of parties for a murder he did not commit. The actual murderer was Daniel Reneau, who was executed by Texas on June 13, 2002.
What: Rally to Save Jeff Wood from Execution
Where: Texas Governor’s Mansion at 1010 Colorado Street in Austin, Texas
When: 4 PM on Saturday July 23, 2016
Speakers at the rally include Jeff Wood’s sister Terri Been and his nephew Nick Been. Groups organizing the rally include Campaign to End the Death Penalty, Texas Moratorium Network, and the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement.
What is the Law of Parties?
Section 7.02 of the Texas Penal Code outlines the following:
A person is criminally responsible for an offense committed by the conduct of another if “acting with intent to promote or assist the commission of the offense he solicits, encourages, directs, aids or attempts to aid the other persons to commit the offense” or “if, in the attempt to carry out a conspiracy to commit one felony, another felony is committed by one of the conspirators, all conspirators are guilty of the felony actually committed, though having no intent to commit it, if the offense was committed in furtherance of the unlawful purpose and was one that should have been anticipated as a result of the carrying out of the conspiracy.”
The law does not require a finding that the person prosecuted under the law of parties intended to kill. The law of parties can be used to sentence people to death even though they did not actually kill or intend anyone to be killed. Kenneth Foster’s death sentence under the law of parties was commuted to life in prison on August 30, 2007 by Governor Rick Perry. The BPP also recommended clemency in another law of parties case in 2009, but Perry rejected that recommendation and allowed the execution of Robert Thompson to take place.
Executions under the law of parties are rare
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, only ten people have been executed in the U.S. under felony murder statutes, known in Texas as the law of parties. In addition to the listed ten, there may have been a few others not yet included in the DPIC list. Clearly, executions under the law of parties are extremely rare when considered as a percentage of the total of 1,437 U.S. executions. For that reason, executions under the law of parties should be ruled unconstitutional as “cruel and unusual” under the 8th Amendment.
Everyone – including law enforcement and prosecutors alike – agree that Jeff Wood did not kill anyone during the January 2, 1996 incident for which he was sentenced to death. The undisputed facts are that Kris Keeran was shot and killed by Daniel Reneau. During the episode, Jeff Wood did not and could not have known that Reneau would murder Keeran. In fact, Wood was not even inside the store at the time of the murder. Wood was outside sitting unarmed in a vehicle. “Wood’s actions before the murder, namely sitting in a car unarmed and unaware that another person was going to commit a robbery, does not constitute reckless indifference to human life”, wrote Hooman Hedayati in an article published in the Austin American-Statesman.
“We are asking the people of Texas to contact the governor and the Board of Pardons and Paroles and urge them to grant clemency to Jeff Wood, because he did not kill anyone. The BPP should recommend that the Governor commute Wood’s death sentence to life in prison or a lesser term consistent with Wood’s level of participation in the crime”, said Scott Cobb of Texas Moratorium Network.
In 2009, the Texas House of representatives overwhelmingly voted in favor of a bill to ban executions under the law off parties. Unfortunately, the bill died in the Senate after Gov. Perry threatened to veto it. Last year, the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence voted again in favor of a bill to exclude the death penalty as punishment in law of parties cases. However, the session ended without an opportunity for a floor vote. The bill will be introduced again in 2017.
For background information on the Wood case, read the clemency petition submitted to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles in 2008 when Wood received a court-ordered stay of execution. A new 2016 clemency petition will be submitted in early August.
Texas Moratorium Network (TMN) is a non-profit organization with the primary goal of mobilizing statewide support for a moratorium on executions in Texas. Significant death penalty reform in Texas, including a moratorium on executions, is a viable goal if the public is educated on the death penalty system and is encouraged to contact their elected representatives to urge passage of moratorium legislation.
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