By Hannah Wiley, The Texas Tribune
“Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rules against death row inmate Jeff Wood” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has rejected a bid by death row inmate Jeff Wood to reconsider his death sentence, granting the state the opportunity to set another execution date for Wood, whose case gained national attention because of his role as the getaway driver in a robbery that resulted in the death of a man.
Wood’s original execution was set for Aug. 24, 2016. But six days before he was scheduled to die, the Court of Criminal Appeals halted his execution and sent the case back to the original trial court in Kerr County to re-examine whether Dr. James P. Grigson, a psychiatrist who testified in Wood’s 1998 murder trial, gave false or misleading statements.
After Wood’s case was sent back to Kerr County in 2016 following the stay of execution, the state filed a response saying that relief should be denied. The trial court originally determined that there were “no existing controverted, previously unresolved factual issues material to the legality of applicant’s confinement.” After a continuing back and forth with the parole board, the trial court and the Court of Criminal Appeals through 2017 and into 2018, the trial court eventually recommended execution relief be granted to Wood, 45.
The Court of Criminal Appeals disagreed on Wednesday.
On Jan. 2, 1996, Wood and Daniel Reneau robbed a Texaco station in Kerrville. Wood was waiting in a truck while Reneau went into the gas station and stole a packed safe, surveillance VCR and other items, according to court documents. Reneau fatally shot 31-year-old store clerk Kris Keeran after he refused to comply with Reneau’s threats.
Both men were convicted and sentenced to death, and Reneau was executed in 2002.
Although the court recognized the controversy of Grigson’s testimony in court documents, the judges argued that the state had collected enough evidence to determine that Wood would still pose a future threat, referencing a previous armed robbery he Wood and Reneau were involved in, and that the two had plotted more crimes while in jail awaiting trial.
“Now that this application is no longer pending, the conviction court can set an execution date, and the Board can properly consider a possible joint request for commutation,” Judge David Newell wrote in a concurring opinion.
Wood’s case has long been controversial because of his minimal role in the crime and because Grigson — nicknamed “Dr. Death” for how he predicted future dangerousness — had not disclosed that he had been expelled from the American Psychiatric Association and the Texas Society of Psychiatric Physicians. Grigson testified that Wood would present a future danger to society if not granted the harshest sentencing. Wood was sentenced to death under Texas’ law of parties, a statute that holds a person criminally responsible for a death even if the individual is not directly involved in the killing.
In an August 2017 letter to the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole, Lucy Wilke, the prosecutor in Wood’s original trial who sought the death penalty against him, wrote to ask that the board recommend to Gov. Greg Abbott that Wood’s sentence be reduced to life in prison. She wrote that she was an early-career attorney at the time of the trial and would not have asked Grigson to testify had she known about his expulsion from the two psychiatric organizations.
“I’m not aware of another case in which a person has been executed with as minimal participation and culpability as Jeff,” Wood’s Houston-based lawyer, Jared Tyler told the Tribune in a previous statement. “It’s a national first in that regard if the state does actually execute him.”
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2018/11/21/Texas-execution-death-row-Jeff-Wood/.
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Five Death Row survivors from Witness to Innocence at the 19th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty October 20, 2018 in front of the Texas Governor’s Mansion. Albert Burrell, Derrick Jamison, Ron Keine, Gary Drinkard, Shujaa Graham. We owe them a debt of gratitude for traveling to Austin as living examples of innocent people who survived years on death row before walking free as exonerees.
Thank you to Witness to Innocence for sending five death row exonerees to speak at the 19th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty. Come hear their stories at the Texas Capitol in Austin on October 20, 2018 at 2 PM.
They are: Ron Keine who spent years on death row in new Mexico, Gary Drinkard who spent close to six years on Alabama’s death row, Shujaa Graham who spent time on California’s death row, Albert Burrell 13 years on death row in Louisiana, and Derrick Jamison, who spent nearly 20 years on Ohio’s death row.
Witness to Innocence is the nation’s only organization dedicated to empowering exonerated death row survivors to be the most powerful and effective voice in the struggle to end the death penalty in the United States.
The 19th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty will be held in Austin, Texas on the South Steps of the Texas Capitol at 2 PM on Saturday, October 20, 2018.
We are in need of funds to help provide speakers fees and travel assistance to several exonerated death row prisoners, publicity and outreach, and other costs associated with this annual event. Anything you can give would be a huge help to the family members, former prisoners and activists that organize the march!
Texas has executed 553 people since 1982, almost 5 times as many as the number 2 state. Texas has executed 8 people so far in 2018, with 8 more Texas executions scheduled through January 2019.
Special Guests: Five death row exonerees from Witness to Innocence, the nation’s only organization dedicated to empowering exonerated death row survivors to be the most powerful and effective voice in the struggle to end the death penalty in the United States.
Death row survivors speaking at the march:
Shujaa Graham who survived death row in California.
Ron Keine, who survived death row in New Mexico.
Derrick Jamison, who survived almost 20 years on death row in Ohio.
Albert Burrell, who survived 13 years on death row in Louisiana.
Gary Drinkard, who survived close to 6 years on death row in Alabama.
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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