“Rick Perry continues to play politics with the death penalty. He should have accepted the recommendation of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to commute the death sentence of Robert Thompson. It would not surprise me if Rick Perry one day replaces the members of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles who voted in favor of clemency for Thompson, just like he replaced his own appointees on the Texas Forensic Science Commission in the midst of their investigation into the Todd Willingham case. Rick Perry is using the death penalty issue to endear himself to right-wing voters in the upcoming Republican primary, but his actions do not reflect the priorities of mainstream Texans who are increasingly concerned about the fairness of the Texas death penalty system”, said Scott Cobb of Texas Moratorium Network.
Cobb continued, “In an Orwellian application of language repurposing, Governor Rick Perry and many of his supporters would like the public to believe that people sentenced to death under the Law of Parties are “killers”, but a “killer” is “one who kills”, not “one whose accomplice killed”. People such as Jeff Wood and Kenneth Foster, Jr, are not killers. They never killed anyone and in a fair system of justice, they should never have received death sentences”.
There is widespread support in Texas for ending the practice of sentencing people to death under the law of parties. In the last session of the Texas Legislature, the Texas House of Representatives passed a bill (HB 2267 by Terri Hodge) that would have banned executions of people convicted solely under the Law of Parties. The Law of Parties provision of HB 2267 was taken out of the bill in the Senate Criminal Justice Committee after Governor Perry threatened to veto it if the bill was sent to him in the same form that it had passed the House. The revised version, which would have only required separate trials for co-defendants in capital trials, then died in the Senate when it did not come up for a vote on the floor before the deadline.
Two family members of a person on death row who was sentenced to death under the Law of Parties issued statements regarding Rick Perry’s refusal to accept the recommendation of clemency for Robert Thompson. Jeff Wood remains on death row in Texas after receiving a stay in 2008 from a federal judge.
Terri Been, whose brother Jeff Wood is on Texas death row convicted under the Law of Parties said “I must say that I was surprised to hear that the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles grew a conscious and voted in favor of clemency for Robert Thompson, since they unanimously voted for the execution of my brother, Jeff Wood, who was also convicted under the law of parties despite the fact that he is factually innocent of murder. However, I was not surprised to hear Perry didn’t jump on board the clemency train as the man has no sense of true justice. After all, it was Perry who killed House Bill 2267, which would have ended the death penalty as a sentencing option for those who never committed murder. It is a very sad day, and I grieve not only for Robert Thompson, his family and for the family of the victim killed by Thompson’s accomplice, but I grieve for the lack of hope that I feel because of Governor Perry’s latest decision. To kill is wrong, but to kill someone who was not convicted of actually killing anyone is INJUSTICE in the simplest form”.
Gavin Been, nephew of Jeff Wood and president of Kids Against the Death Penalty said, “KADP members mourn for Robert Thompson and for the injustice taking place in Texas today. Governor Perry strikes again by condemning another person to death who is factually innocent of murder, and we are appalled that our fellow citizens continue to turn a blind eye to Perry’s mismanagement of power. We know that Texans favor “tough on crime” laws, but we were taught that laws and punishment were supposed to be equal and fair. How is it fair that people like, Jeff Wood, or in this case Robert Thompson, who are factually innocent of murder, should face execution while there are REPEAT offenders of murder and rape in general population, who have the right to be paroled, and are given a second chance? To sentence a person to death who never committed a murder is NOT justice; it is murder itself, and Mr. Perry should be ashamed of himself for allowing another murder to take place”.