AUSTIN—Death row exonerees on Tuesday called for lawmakers to abolish the death penalty—a long-shot bid in Texas where capital punishment has broad support. Death penalty opponents declared it the “Day of Innocence,” with about two dozen exonerees and loved ones of death row inmates lobbying lawmakers to approve legislation that would abolish the death penalty and prohibit the law of parties from being used in capital cases. The law allows people convicted of aiding or abetting in a murder committed by another person to be sentenced to death. “I don’t want the state executing people in my name,” said Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, who has again filed legislation to end the death penalty. “You can go all the way through the system and be factually innocent and end up on death row, which is evidence by some of the people here. How many people has Texas executed who might have been innocent?” Dutton has attempted to get the bills passed in the Legislature every session since 2003. The bills have not made it out of committee. Support for capital punishment runs deep in the Lone Star State. A 2012 poll indicated that more than 70 percent of Texans are in favor of the death penalty. The state tops the nation in number of executions. Despite their uphill battle, death penalty opponents said they would visit “as many offices as possible” to ask lawmakers to consider a moratorium. In a news conference, Terri Been tearfully pleaded for her brother, Jeff Wood, to be removed from death row. Wood was convicted under the state’s law of parties for a killing committed by his partner in a 1996 robbery in Kerrville. According to news reports, Wood waited outside of a gas station while Daniel Reneau entered and pointed a handgun at the clerk, Kris Keeran. When Keeran did not respond to Reneau’s request, Reneau shot him. Wood then entered the store. He stole a surveillance video—his family says he was forced by Reneau to take the tape—and fled from the scene with Reneau. Wood has said he did not know Reneau would use force, according to reports. In 2008, Wood, who was found not mentally fit to stand trial, won a stay from a federal judge just hours before his scheduled execution. He remains on death row. Been said her brother’s proposed execution has caused great anguish for the family. “It’s very difficult as a family member to have come that close to your loved one being murdered before you,” she said. The bills have not yet been scheduled for a committee hearing.
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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