Inmate’s supporters appeal to governor

San Antonio Express News, August 3, 2008

Kristin Wood, the wife of death row inmate Jeffrey Wood, holds sister-in-law Terri Been at a rally at the Alamo. Jeffrey Wood is scheduled to be executed Aug. 21. A second rally is planned for Aug. 16 in Austin.

Eva Ruth Moravec – Express-News

Supporters of Texas inmate Jeffrey Wood, scheduled to die Aug. 21 for the 1996 murder of a Kerrville convenience store clerk, are hoping Gov. Rick Perry can see how similar Wood’s case is to that of an inmate whose death sentence he commuted to life in prison last year.

“It was the exact same thing,” said Wood’s wife, Kristin. “He has faith, especially that the truth will come out eventually.”

Jeffrey Wood and his former roommate Daniel Reneau were convicted of murdering Kris Keeran, a clerk at the Kerrville Gold Star Texaco.

According to court testimony, Reneau held up the store . on Jan. 2, 1996, and shot Keeran after he refused to participate in a plan to stage a robbery and split the proceeds. Wood drove the getaway car. In a taped interview with a Kerrville police detective, Wood called Keeran “a real good friend.”

Wood’s defense team claimed he was unaware that a robbery, let alone murder, would occur.

Kerr County Assistant District Attorney Lucy Wilke, formerly Lucy Cavazos, won a conviction against Wood under the law of parties statute, which makes someone who participates in an act that leads to homicide as culpable as the actual killer.

In a letter sent in July to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, Wilke wrote, “Mr. Wood was the mastermind of this senseless murder. It was Wood who showed his teenage brother the surveillance video tape depicting the murder, while laughing, and then ordered his brother to destroy the tape.”

On Saturday, about 20 people gathered in front of the Alamo to rally for Wood’s life, begging Perry for help.

Last August, Perry commuted a death sentence to life in prison for inmate Kenneth Foster Jr., also convicted under the law of parties statute.

“Jeff’s case is so much like Kenneth’s case; it is like a mirror image,” Lawrence Foster, grandfather of Kenneth Foster Jr., wrote in a statement read at the rally. “I remember thinking last summer that Texas had already executed the killer and yet they wanted Kenneth. It is the same for Jeff.”

The cases are so similar that Norway native Kristin Wood, 29, has found comfort and support from the Foster camp, including from Foster’s wife, Tasha, a 24-year-old Netherlands citizen.

Wood’s relatives staged the rally with the Texas Moratorium Network, which wants a two-year moratorium on all death penalty cases. A second rally for Wood is planned for Aug. 16 in Austin.

Meanwhile, younger relatives have joined a group called Kids Against the Death Penalty.

“I’m here because Jeff Wood is innocent and on death row for a murder that he didn’t commit,” said Gavin Been, 11, Wood’s nephew.

According to the Texas Moratorium Network, attorney Jared Tyler with the Texas Defender Service is preparing a clemency package to submit on Wood’s behalf.

The victim’s father, Charles Keeran, also would like to see Wood live.

“The death penalty, to me, is the easy way out,” he said. “If you had to be down there and get up every morning, as hot and humid as it is, knowing that you are going to spend the rest of your life locked up under those conditions, that’s punishment. That’s what I think my son would want for him.”

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