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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.

https://www.scribd.com/doc/4568017/Clemency-Petition-for-Jeff-Wood-to-Texas-Governor-and-Board-of-Pardons-and-Paroles

savejeffwood.com

TMN’s Hooman Hedayati published a guest column in the Austin America-Statesman on the scheduled execution of Jeff Wood.

Hedayati: In Texas death row case, punishment does not fit crime

Posted: 11:10 a.m. Monday, July 18, 2016
Jeff Wood and his daughter.

Jeff Wood and his daughter.

Jeff Wood has an appointment he hopes to miss.

On Aug. 24, 2016, at about 6 p.m., the Texas Department of Criminal Justice plans to inject a lethal dose of pentobarbital into Jeff’s veins to stop his heart as punishment for the 1996 murder of Kris Keeran.

What makes this execution controversial is that everyone, including law enforcement and the prosecution, agrees that Wood, the driver of the getaway car, did not kill Kris Keeran inside a Kerrville convenient store on the morning of January 2, 1996. In fact, Daniel Reneau, the actual and sole killer of Keeran, was executed for his crime on June 13, 2002.

Wood was convicted and sentenced to die under Texas’ arcane felony-murder law, more commonly known as the “the law of parties” — for his role as an accomplice to a killing, which he had no reason to anticipate. Under the law of parties, those who conspire to commit a felony, like a robbery, can be held responsible for a subsequent crime, like murder, if it “should have been anticipated.” The law does not require a finding that the person intended to kill. It only requires that the defendant, charged under the law of parties, was a major participant in the underlying felony and exhibited a reckless indifference to human life. In other words, neglecting to anticipate another actor’s commission of murder in the course of a felony is all that is required to make a Texas defendant death-eligible.

Texas is not the only state that holds co-conspirators responsible for one another’s criminal acts. However, it is one of few states that applies the death sentence to them. There have been only 10 people in the U.S. executed under the law of parties — and five of those 10 executions were in Texas. The last such execution was in 2009, where the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles (BPP) recommended, with a 5-2 vote, that Robert Thompson’s death sentence be commuted to life. Rick Perry rejected that vote and allowed the execution to proceed. Thompson was executed, even though it was his co-defendant, Sammy Butler, who actually killed the victim. Butler was given a life sentence.

When the convenient store robbery took place, Wood was sitting in a car outside, under the impression that Reneau was going into the store to get “road drinks and munchies.” Although it is true that Wood and Reneau had talked about robbing the store at the behest of the manager, Wood had backed out of the idea. Wood had no idea Reneau was carrying a gun and was going to attempt to rob the store. Wood also claims he was forced to drive Reneau away from the crime scene at gunpoint. 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.

Even many supporters of capital punishment agree that the Texas law of parties is wholly unfair. In 2009, the Texas Moratorium Network and Wood’s family led an advocacy campaign to end the death penalty for people convicted under the law of parties. The Republican-controlled Texas House overwhelmingly voted in favor of the bill. 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 Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles 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. They have made that recommendation in similar cases, including those of Kenneth Foster in 2007 and Robert Thompson in 2009.

Wood might deserve punishment for driving away from the crime scene, but he does not deserve to die. He has never taken a human life with his own hands.

Hedayati is an attorney and a member of the Texas Moratorium Network Board of Directors. For more information visit: SaveJeffWood.com.

Texas_governors_mansionAttend the rally to stop the execution of Jeff Wood at the Texas Governor’s Mansion on Saturday, July 23, 2016.

Tell Governor Abbott and the Board of Pardons and Paroles to stop the execution of Jeff Wood! Texas has set his execution for August 24th – despite the fact that he killed no one.

Meet at the front gate of the mansion at 4 PM, 1010 Colorado St, Austin, Texas.

Terri Been, sister of Jeff Wood, will speak at the rally, as well as others.

Sponsors include Texas Moratorium Network, Campaign to End the Death Penalty, Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement. Contact the organizers on the event page to be listed as a co-sponsor.

 

In 2007, we stopped the execution of Kenneth Foster – also sentenced under the Law of Parties in Texas. Since then, this law has been scrutinized by the Texas legislature, although they haven’t taken action to change it. People are looking at this law and at Jeff’s case – and we have a chance to save him!

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Here are are some actions you can take:
FOR TEXANS: Attend and spread the word about this rally for Jeff, planned for Saturday, July 23rd at 4PM at the Governor’s Mansion in Austin, TX.
*For information about a caravan from Houston, please visit contact the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement at https://www.facebook.com/groups/272…
Sign and share this petition for Jeff Wood. We need to gather as many signatures as possible over the next few weeks.
Write a clemency letter for Jeff – and think of others you can ask to write a letter, including prominent people in your community. Copies of your letter should be mailed to both the Governor of Texas and the Board of Pardons and Paroles. A sample clemency letter, with addresses for both, can be found here: http://nodeathpenalty.org/sites/def…
*Please also send a copy of your letter to the Save Jeff Wood Campaign at 246 County Road 7611, Devine, Texas, 78016
Donate to the campaign to Save Jeff Wood. As the fundraising page states – we need funds to pay for printing, postage, travel, hosting death row exonerates and others to speak out for Jeff, as well as other unforeseen expenses.
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Jeff was charged under the controversial Law of Parties, and was not the shooter in this crime, nor was he even in the building when the shooting took place. This unjust law states that even though a co-defendant may NOT have participated in the crime or caused a death, he can still face the death penalty. It also states that he should have “anticipated” the crime; which was not possible in this case as Jeff had no knowledge that a robbery would even be taking place that day, let alone a murder. Even if a person did not harm anyone, they can still get the death penalty if they were involved in a crime where someone else killed a person, because they should have “anticipated that a human life would be taken.”
FINAL-tdp16-CRUZ-LogoThe Texas Democratic Party Platform approved at the State Convention Saturday June 18 , 2016 supports abolishing the death penalty. It also supports establishing a moratorium on executions to study the death penalty. Support for a moratorium is crucial to abolishing the death penalty, because every state that has abolished the death penalty in the modern era has first had either an official or de-facto moratorium before abolishing the death penalty.
“Democrats Against the Death Penalty”, started by Scott Cobb in 2004, held a caucus at the State Convention. Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr spoke about his bill he filed last session to abolish the death penalty and urged everyone to get involved in the upcoming session to ensure his bill gets a committee hearing.
Steven Been spoke about his brother-in-law Jeff Wood, who has a scheduled execution date of August 24, 2016. Wood was convicted under the Law of Parties and sentenced to death even though he did not kill anyone. The room was packed with more than 150 people. Steven had many in the audience wiping their eyes with his emotional and powerfully reasoned appeal to save the life of Jeff Wood. After he laid out his case, in a brilliant move of a natural public speaker he asked everyone in the audience to stand up if they believed Jeff should have his death sentence commuted. Everyone in the room got to their feet. Well done, Steven!
The section on the death penalty states:
 
Despite 13 death row exonerations in Texas in the last 11 years, the death chamber and its machinery are still fully operational in Texas. Death penalty exonerations have already revealed deep flaws in our State’s criminal justice system. Evidence, including scientific evidence, extensive studies by Innocence Project, major newspapers, and university research, strongly
suggests that Texas has already executed innocent defendants including Carlos DeLuna, Ruben Cantu, and Cameron Todd Willingham. We must take every step to ensure there is never another innocent person executed. Texas Democrats support and urge:
● the passage of legislation that would abolish the death penalty and replace it with the
punishment of life in prison without parole; and
● the Governor, Texas Legislature, and Texas Judiciary and Texas Prosecutors to impose a moratorium on capital punishment while an unbiased and objective study of the entire process, from arrest, conviction/sentencing, appeals at all state levels, and the execution process itself is shown to be reliable and without such grievous failures as have been evident in the recent past.

terribeenJeff Wood is scheduled for execution in Texas on August 24, 2016 under the law of parties even though he did not kill anyone. We need to persuade the Texas governor and members of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to commute Jeff’s death sentence. I have known Jeff’s family for many years. His sister Terri Been is leading the effort to #savejeffwood. She has testified to the Texas Legislature to ban executions under the Law of Parties and spoken out many times to save her brother from an unjust execution.

We created a petition to David G. Gutiérrez, Chair, Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Governor Greg Abbott, which says:

“We are petitioning to save Jeff Wood from unjustly being put to death by the state of Texas on August 24, 2016 for a murder he did not commit. Jeff was charged under the controversial Law of Parties. He was not the shooter in this crime, nor was he even in the building when the shooting took place. This unjust law states that even though a co-defendant may not have killed anyone, he can still face the death penalty, because of the actions of another person.

The actual shooter in this case, Daniel Reneau, has already been executed by the state of Texas.”

Four things to do:

1) Will you sign our petition? Click here to add your name.

 2) You can also donate to the clemency campaign. We have about two months to move the public, the governor and the Board of Pardons and Paroles and we need about $1,000 for the clemency campaign.

3) Attend the rally July 23 at the Texas Governor’s Mansion in Austin.

4) Write a clemency letter to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and to Governor Greg Abbott. Send the letters separately to each of their addresses.

David Gutiérrez, Presiding Officer Board of Pardons and Paroles, Executive Clemency Section 8610 Shoal Creek Boulevard, Austin, TX 78757

Governor Gregg Abbott, Office of the Governor, P.O. Box 12428, Austin, Texas 78711-2428

On July 23, we will hold a rally at the Texas Governor’s Mansion.

In 2009, the Texas House of Representatives passed a bill that would have banned executions of people convicted under the law of parties. The bill died in the Senate. It will be introduced again in the next legislative session in January 2017.

Jeff’s case is similar to Kenneth Foster’s, whose death sentence was commuted in 2007 by Governor Rick Perry after many people wrote clemency letters and more than 17,000 people signed a petition urging Perry to commute the death sentence, since Foster had not killed anyone. He was sentenced under the law of parties.

There have been only ten executions in the U.S. of people convicted under law of parties statutes. Five of those people were executed in Texas.

Terri Been wrote on Facebook:

I humbly ask you to help my family by taking a few minutes of your time to read a few facts regarding Jeff’s case and to sign his petition that we will be sending the governor! While you are on Jeff’s Web Page, I also ask that you take an extra minute or two to look at the other information we have in the how you can help section. For those of you who are familiar with Kenneth Foster’s case (which is very similar to Jeff’s case) it took their family over 17,000 messages to the Governor and the Board of Pardons and Paroles to get his sentence commuted to Life. This was accomplished by sending petitions, faxes, letters, and by making phone calls. I am eternally grateful for every single signature, but I need more. I need calls, letters and faxes to go along with the petition signatures.

I humbly ask that you help my family. Jeff is my baby brother and he did not kill anybody! Please ask yourselves what you would do if you were in my situation. What lengths would you go to if this was your family member?

Short case summary: At approximately 6:00 a.m. on Jan. 2, 1996, while Wood waited outside, Reneau entered the gas station with a gun and pointed it at Kris Keeran, the clerk standing behind the counter. Reneau ordered him to a back room. When he did not move quickly enough, Reneau fired one shot with a 22 caliber handgun that struck Keeran between the eyes. Death was almost instantaneous. Proceeding with the robbery, Reneau went into the back office and took a safe. When hearing the shot, Wood got out of the car to see what was going on. He walked by the door and looked through the glass. Then he went inside, and he looked over the counter and ran to the back, where Reneau was. Wood was then ordered, at gun point by Reneau, to get the surveillance video and to drive the getaway-car.

Sign the petition, please.

Tison v. Arizona, 481 U.S. 137 (1987), is a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court applied the proportionality principle to conclude that the death penalty was an appropriate punishment for a felony murderer who was a major participant in the underlying felony and exhibited a reckless indifference to human life.

If it goes to the Court again in the Wood case, they should be asked to find that enough change has occurred in public opinion since 1987 that there is now a national consensus that the death penalty should be banned in law of parties cases.

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