August 22, 2016
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled 7-2 on Friday, August 19 to halt the execution of Jeffrey Lee Wood, a death row inmate awaiting an ostensibly unconstitutional execution by lethal injection for a murder he did not commit nor intend to commit. He was sentenced to death under Texas’ “law of parties” for his involvement in a 1996 convenience store robbery that led to the shooting death of his friend Kriss Keeran, who worked at the store as a clerk.
The court announced that it is asking a lower trial court to review the sentence, as well as claims of falsified evidence and false expert testimony based on junk pseudo-science.
Wood’s lawyer, Jared Tyler, said there were serious issues with statements made at Wood’s trial by the late Dr. James Grigson, a forensic psychiatrist who boasted the outlandish assertion that he could predict future criminal behavior (which the American Psychiatric Association says is impossible). He was notorious for giving testimony (with “100% certainty”) that led to hundreds of defendants being sent to the death chamber, earning him the nickname “Dr. Death.” The American Psychiatric Association and Texas Psychiatric Physicians, among other organizations, expelled him on ethical grounds for diagnosing defendants without first examining them. Grigson did not personally examine Wood, yet told jurors that Wood would “most certainly” commit violent crimes in the future.
Additional concerns have been raised over whether Wood’s execution would be constitutional. The Supreme Court ruled in Enmund v. Florida that the death penalty is not a valid punishment for those who did not kill or have the intent to kill anyone. Another factor that should disqualify Wood from the death penalty is The Supreme Court ruling in Atkins v. Virginia that the severely mentally handicapped cannot be executed, though the states were left to determine for themselves what exactly constituted severe mental disability. With an IQ of 80, Wood has borderline intellectual functioning, according to his lawyers, and his stepmother has previously described him as an “8-year-old in a man’s body.”
Wood had previously been scheduled to be executed in August 2008, but a federal district court issued a stay so he could be tested on whether or not he understood why he was on death row. Tests showed he was competent, and the parole board and then–Gov. Rick Perry refused to commute his sentence.
Read Jeff’s firsthand account of his life and struggles on death row, as revealed to Gawker:
Original story (published on August 15):
On August 24, 2016, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice is scheduled to inject Jeffrey Lee Wood with a lethal dose of pentobarbital to stop his heart.
This lethal injection is punishment for the 1996 murder of a man he did not kill — and, by some accounts, did not know was going to be killed. Even the judge and prosecution agree that Wood did not kill anyone.
Legal experts say his case is rare, even in Texas, the execution capital of America — and a state that allows capital punishment for people who did not kill anyone or did not intend to kill.
Wood was convicted and sentenced to death under the “law of parties,” in effect in Texas since the 1970s, which states that a person who “solicits, encourages, directs, aids, or attempts to aid the other person to commit an offense” is also criminally liable for that offense.
Under the law, prosecutors are not required to prove that a defendant had any part in committing a crime, or even any intention to commit one. Jurors only need to find that a crime was planned, and that the defendant should have anticipated that the crime would occur.
In Wood’s case, he was sitting in a pickup outside a Texaco in Kerrville, Texas, in January 1996, when Daniel Reneau went inside and shot and killed the store clerk with a .22-caliber handgun.
Wood’s supporters say he was under the impression that Reneau, a drifter he’d met a few months earlier, was going inside just to buy food and drinks. But they are also in agreement that Wood isn’t completely innocent.
Court records state that Wood had conspired with Reneau and the store’s assistant manager to steal a safe they believed contained thousands of dollars. When the others backed out, Reneau decided to proceed anyway on his own, court records say.
Based on testimony from Wood’s then-girlfriend, he asked Reneau to not bring his gun before the two drove to the convenience store that day. Reneau did anyway, unbeknownst to Wood.
Wood’s attorney, Jared Tyler, insisted his client could not have anticipated the death of the clerk, Kris Keeran, and was unfairly held culpable for Reneau’s actions and decisions.
Both men were convicted of capital murder, and Wood has been on death row since 1998. Reneau was put to death in 2002.
If executed this month, Wood will be the “least culpable person executed in the modern era of death penalty,” said Scott Cobb, president of Texas Moratorium Network, a group that advocates against capital punishment.
There is only one way to stop this unjust execution: the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, must commute Wood’s sentence. You can help prevent this innocent man from being executed for a murder he did not commit. Please contact Governor Greg Abbott at any of the following, and tell him to commute Jeffrey Lee Wood’s sentence:
CONTACT GOVERNOR GREG ABBOTT:
Professional Twitter: @GovAbbott
Personal Twitter: @GregAbbott_TX
P.O. Box 12428
Austin, TX 78711
Fax: (512) 477-0774
Phone: (512) 463-2000
For more details on this story, read the original article here: