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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Urge Texas Governor Rick Perry to Stop the Execution of Charles Dean Hood Scheduled for Sept 10, 2008

On Sept 10, 2008, the state of Texas is scheduled to execute Charles Dean Hood despite the fact that his trial judge and the DA who prosecuted him were having an affair at the time of Hood's trial.

Click here to urge Governor Perry to stop the execution of Charles Hood
.

Read more about the relationship in Alan Berlow's Salon.com article.

On Sunday, Aug 21, 2008, Houston Chronicle columnist Rick Casey wrote,

On June 3, Hood's lawyers obtained a sworn statement from a lawyer who had worked in the Collin County district attorney's office at the time of the trial in 1990. The former assistant DA, Matthew Goeller, said it was "common knowledge in the district attorney's office" that DA Tom O'Connell and Judge Verla Sue Holland were involved in a long-running affair.

The courts have clearly held that the constitutional right to due process includes a trial in which the judge is not, figuratively or literally, in bed with the prosecutor.
The ABA Code of Judicial Conduct provides that "A judge shall disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which the judge's impartiality might reasonably be questioned." Where there is doubt, a judge is obliged to disclose information that lawyers might consider relevant to the question of disqualification.

The judge in Hood's case did not disclose the affair with the prosecuting attorney.

Charles Hood deserves a new trial in which the judge is not having an affair with the prosecuting attorney.

Please compose a message in your own words. Form letters are not effective.You can also express your sympathy for the familes and loved ones of Tracie Wallace and Ronald Williamson.

You can also leave Governor Perry a phone message at: 512-463-2000, fax him at 512-463-1849 (his fax line is often busy, so just keep trying) or write him at:

Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 12428
Austin, Texas 78711-2428

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Video of Force Being Used on Kenneth Foster

On August 30, 2007, Texas Governor Rick Perry commuted the death sentence of Kenneth Foster, Jr. following a sustained grassroots campaign led by Kenneth's family and anti-death penalty activists from Texas and across the country. This video was taken the night staff members from Texas' death row transported Kenneth to the death house in Huntsville several hours ahead of schedule. As promised, Kenneth refused to cooperate. His bravery in this video is a testament to his fighting spirit and commitment to social justice.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

13 Scheduled Executions in Texas; 7 More in Other States

Of the 20 currently scheduled executions in the United States, 13 of them are in Texas. Isn't it about time the people who make decisions on funding state-level anti-death penalty efforts send some funding to Texas. We have teamed up with other anti-death penalty groups in Texas to submit an application to the Tides Foundation Death Penalty Mobilization Fund's State Strategies program. We submitted the application on Aug 15, in the midst of the campaign to Save Jeff Wood. We hope they decide to fund Texas. In 2006, we applied but they refused to fund us that year, instead sending $70,000 to Iowa and Wisconsin, two states that don't even have the death penalty.

Gregory Wright Sept 9
Greg Wright's Website
TDCJ Info on Gregory Wright

Charles Hood Sept 10
TDCJ Info on Charles Hood
Judge and Prosecutor in Hood's Trial Were Having an Affair

William Murray Sept 17
TDCJ Info on William Murray

Joseph Ries Sept 18
TDCJ Info on Joseph Ries

Kevin Watts Oct 16
TDCJ Info on Kevin Watts

Eric Nenno Oct 28
TDCJ Info on Eric Nenno

Elkie Taylor November 6
TDCJ Info on Elkie Taylor

Rogelio Cannady Nov 6
TDCJ Info on Rogelio Cannady

George Whitaker III Nov 12
TDCJ Info on George Whitaker III

Denard Manns Nov 13
TDCJ Info on Denard Manns

Eric Cathey Nov 18
TDCJ Info on Eric Cathey

Robert Hudson Nov 20
TDCJ Info on Robert Hudson

Reginald Perkins Jan 22, 2009
TDCJ Info on Reginald Perkins



Fall 2006 State Strategies Grant Recipients

Grantee Grant Amount
Wisconsin Coalition Against the Death Penalty $50,000
Iowans Against the Death Penalty $20,000
Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty $20,000
Maryland Citizens Against State Executions $2,500
Death Penalty Focus $45,000
Pennsylvania Abolitionists United Against the Death Penalty $45,000
TOTAL: $182,500

Total for Texas = zero (Great job, national leaders)

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Clemency Letter for Jeff Wood by Texas State Rep. Helen Giddings

Helen Giddings was one of at least 13 Texas state representatives who wrote or co-signed clemency letters for Jeff Wood to urge that he not be executed.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Text of Order from Judge Orlando Garcia to Stay Execution of Jeff Wood

Judge Orlando Garcia issued this order staying the execution of Jeff Wood on Aug. 21, 2008.

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Wood's Attorneys to Submit Mental Illness Evaluation Early Next Year

The Houston Chronicle is reporting that Jeff Wood's attorneys will submit a report from mental health experts who will evaluate Wood to the judge early next year. Of course, that means there will be no execution at least until the judge evaluates the report, so Jeff Wood will not have an execution date rescheduled at least until next year. If he is found to be incompetent, he likely would never have an execution date re-scheduled.

U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia of San Antonio put the execution on hold to allow psychiatric examination to verify defense claims that Wood is incompetent to be executed.

Wood's pending execution spurred protests from death penalty opponents who noted that he merely was a getaway driver in the January 1996 robbery-killing.

His partner, Daniel Reneau, who was identified as the triggerman, was executed in 2002.

Wood was convicted under Texas' law of parties, a statute that says all parties to a crime are equally culpable.

Garcia allocated up to $7,000 for the psychiatric testing.

Wood's attorney, Scott Sullivan of San Antonio, said he will report to the court early next year. If Wood is found incompetent, his execution likely would be delayed indefinitely.

"We are relieved that we are going through the process whereby the court will determine if he is competent to be executed," Sullivan said. "It is a process that is dearly needed in this case."

Wood initially was found incompetent for trial after being indicted on a capital murder charge. After a period in which he received no medical or psychiatric treatment, he was deemed competent, tried, convicted and sentenced to death.

Should Wood at some point be found competent, he could again face execution, Sullivan said.

"The diagnosis that keeps coming back is narcissistic personality disorder and attention deficit disorder," Sullivan said. "That's where you become so big on yourself that you put yourself above it all. When you do that, you lose touch with reality. It's a huge trigger mechanism for Wood."

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More information on stay of execution for Jeff Wood

ABC News has more details on the reason for the stay of execution for Jeff Wood:

The case has received national media attention because it would be one of the few executions under a legal doctrine that made Wood responsible for crimes committed by his accomplices that "should have been anticipated" -- even if he did not actually commit the crime.

But federal judge Orlando Garcia stayed the execution for another reason, finding that Texas violated Wood's constitutional rights by refusing to provide Wood with a lawyer to help him argue that he is too mentally incompetent to be executed.

"With all due respect, a system that requires an insane person to first make 'a substantial showing' of his own lack of mental capacity without the assistance of counsel or a mental health expert, in order to obtain such assistance is, by definition, an insane system," Garcia wrote.

Wood's attorneys said that Texas did not plan to appeal Garcia's ruling.

Garcia said there was some evidence that Wood did not understand the connection between his role in Keeran's death and the reason he was sentenced to death. He found that Wood should be given the chance to argue that he is mentally incompetent.

Wood was initially found too mentally incompetent to stand trial. After a few months in a state hospital, Wood was found competent to go to trial, though he had not had any medical treatment during that time. He was convicted and sentenced to death in 1998.

An earlier mental health evaluation said Wood had delusional thought patterns and could not appreciate the consequences of his actions. His wife and father, in previous interviews with ABCNews.com, said Wood was eager to please and has trouble understanding information.

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Execution Stay Not Being Appealed: Jeff Wood Will NOT be Executed Today

We have heard that Jeff Wood is being transported back to death row in Livingston.

In Austin, we will still gather at the Texas Capitol on the sidewalk facing Congress at 11th Street today at 5:30 PM to celebrate the stay of execution and to urge that Jeff Wood's death sentence be permanently commuted.

Federal judge Orlando Garcia stayed the execution, finding that Texas violated Wood's constitutional rights by refusing to provide Wood with a lawyer to help him argue that he is too mentally incompetent to be executed.

"With all due respect, a system that requires an insane person to first make 'a substantial showing' of his own lack of mental capacity without the assistance of counsel or a mental health expert, in order to obtain such assistance is, by definition, an insane system," Garcia wrote.

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Federal Judge Issues Stay for Jeff Wood

From the Houston Chronicle:

HUNTSVILLE — A federal judge today granted a request to delay the execution of condemned inmate Jeffery Wood, who was set for execution this evening for taking part in the robbery and murder of a convenience store clerk in the Texas Hill Country.

The judge granted a request by Wood's attorneys to delay his execution so they could hire a mental health expert to pursue their arguments that he is incompetent to be executed.
In Austin, we will still gather at the Texas Capitol on the sidewalk facing Congress at 11th Street today at 5:30 PM.

Federal judge Orlando Garcia stayed the execution, finding that Texas violated Wood's constitutional rights by refusing to provide Wood with a lawyer to help him argue that he is too mentally incompetent to be executed.

"With all due respect, a system that requires an insane person to first make 'a substantial showing' of his own lack of mental capacity without the assistance of counsel or a mental health expert, in order to obtain such assistance is, by definition, an insane system," Garcia wrote.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

National Consensus Against Executing Non Killers Like Jeff Wood?

Thursday, August 21, Texas is set to execute Jeff Wood even though he did not kill anyone. The person who actually killed the victim has already been executed by Texas. Yesterday, the Board of Pardons and Paroles voted against clemency for Wood, but Governor Perry can still stop this execution by issuing a 30 day stay of execution.

Please call Governor Perry at 512-463-2000 and urge him to issue a 30 day stay of execution for Wood. You can also send Perry an email through his website.

The Washington Post reports:

The state of Texas is scheduled to execute Jeffery Lee Wood by lethal injection tonight, even though he did not actually kill anyone. Wood was sitting in a truck outside a convenience store when an accomplice shot and killed a cashier in a botched robbery 12 years ago.

If the execution moves forward, Wood, 35, will become only the eighth person to be put to death as an accomplice since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976, according to the Washington-based Death Penalty Information Center. More than 1,100 people have been executed during this period. The executed accomplices do not include those who were put to death for hiring someone to commit murder.

"It is very, very rare," said David Fathi, U.S. program director for Human Rights Watch. "This is a case that illustrates everything that is wrong with the death penalty in Texas."

In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court banned executions of juvenile offenders on the basis that a national consensus had formed against executing such people. At the time, 22 juvenile offenders had been executed, so it was very rare for such executions to be carried out.

There have only been 7 executions of people who did not kill anyone but whose accomplices did, so it would appear that a national consensus also exists against executing people who did not kill anyone but who were sentenced to death because an accomplice killed someone in the course of another crime. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1989 that executing juvenile offenders was constitutional and in that same year the Court ruled that executing people with mental retardation was constitutional. But in 2002 and 2005, the Court overturned its 1980's rulings and banned executions of both juveniles and people with mental retardation. The Court should now intervene in the Wood execution on the same basis, that executing people like Wood, who did not actually kill anyone, is a violation of the U.S. Constitution's 8th Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment and that since the last Court ruling in 1987 a national consensus against such executions has developed, shown by the fact that only 7 such executions have taken place.

There have been two cases, both in the 1980s, when the Court ruled on this issue.

From the Washington Post:

A 1982 decision by the Supreme Court appears to support such a view. The court decided 5 to 4 in Enmund v. Florida that imposing the death penalty on a defendant when a murder was committed by others was a violation of the Eighth Amendment if the defendant "does not himself kill, attempt to kill, or intend that a killing take place, or lethal force will be employed."

But a second 5 to 4 decision by the court appears to support Texas. In Tison v. Arizona, a case in which family members broke their father out of prison and then killed a family of four that they flagged down to help repair their getaway car, the court said that the death penalty could apply if it could be shown that the defendant was a "major participant" in the felony and acted with "reckless indifference to human life."

"That's why I think this issue may come back to the Supreme Court," Dieter said. "This is an area that needs some clarification."

Governor Perry can issue a 30 day stay and then he could request another review by the Board of Pardons and Paroles. He could request the board to commute the sentence to life in prison or to issue a long enough stay for the next session of the Legislature to review the law of parties so that a person could not be sentenced to death unless they actually killed someone. If they only played a role in one offense, but did not intend to kill anyone, then they should not be subject to the death penalty. In such cases, they could be sentenced to a term in prison up to life in prison.

More on the Jeff Wood case can be found at www.savejeffwood.com, including information that Wood has had mental illness issues since childhood. At his trial, he even refused to allow his lawyers to bring witnesses on his behalf during the penalty phase.

An excellent presentation of why Jeff Wood's sentence should be commuted to life can be read in the 22 page application for commutation written by his lawyers. They write, "Mr. Wood undeniably shares responsibility for what happened to Mr. Keeran, and should be held accountable for his reckless acts, but no man ever deserves to die for another man's acts.".

A letter from ten Texas legislators urging clemency is here.

Another letter from State Rep Mike Villareal is here. In addition, State Rep Dora Olivo has also written a letter.

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.”

Charles Keeran also called the governor's office on the day that Daniel Reneau was executed, urging the governor to commute Reneau's sentence to life, even though Reneau is the person who actually killed Mr. Keeran's son.

If the death penalty is used, it should be reserved for the worst of the worst killers. Jeff Wood is not even a killer, much less one of the worst of the worst of all killers.

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State Rep. Mike Villareal's Letter Urging Clemency for Jeff Wood

Last week, ten legislators wrote a letter to the Board of Pardons and Paroles and Governor Perry urging clemency for Jeff Wood. Here is another letter from a state legislator: State Representative Mike Villareal. We also know that Rep Dora Olivo wrote her own letter.

August 12, 2008

The Honorable Rick Perry

Governor of Texas

State Capitol

Room 2S.1

Austin, Texas 78701

Ms. Rissie Owens

Chair

Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles

Members of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles

Executive Clemency Section

8610 Shoal Creek Boulevard

Austin, Texas 78757

Dear Governor Perry, Chairwoman Owens and Board Members:

As you know, the execution of Jeffrey Wood is currently set for August 21, 2008. I am writing to respectfully request a review of the facts of the case which I believe urge commutation of Jeffrey Wood's sentence to no more than life without parole.

Mr. Wood was convicted of capital murder under the Texas Law of Parties. It appears that he neither killed, nor anticipated that Daniel Earl Reneau would kill, Kris Keeran. It also appears that Mr. Wood did not actively participate in the convenience store robbery in Kerrville that preceded the January 2, 1996 murder. He did not anticipate that a murder would occur and was not in the store when the murder took place. The shooter, Danny Reneau, has already been executed for this crime.

Our justice system should be required to meet a high standard to use the Law of Parties provision to extend capital punishment to someone who did not directly commit murder. It appears that in the case of Jeffrey Wood application of the Law of Parties falls short.

Thank you very much for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Michael U. Villarreal

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

NYT: Governor Perry "hasn’t made a decision" on Jeff Wood

The New York Times is reporting that Governor Perry "hasn’t made a decision" on whether to grant a 30 day stay of execution for Jeff Wood. So, please call his office and urge him to issue a stay.

Please call the Governor of Texas at 512-463-2000
Office of the Governor Fax: (512) 463-1849
Tell the Governor to Issue a 30-day Stay of Execution to Jeff Wood
Jeff is Scheduled for Execution Thursday, Aug 21, so CALL NOW!



From the Times:

Texas Panel Rejects Plea to Halt Execution of Accomplice in 1996 Murder

By JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr.
Published: August 19, 2008

HOUSTON — Jeffrey Lee Wood is sentenced to die this week for the murder of a store clerk during a robbery, even though he was sitting in a truck outside the convenience store when it happened.

Mr. Wood is the latest person to face the death penalty under a Texas law that makes accomplices subject to the death penalty if a murder occurs during a crime.

His lawyers say Mr. Wood is a gullible man of limited intellect who suffers from delusions. In their view, Mr. Wood was never mentally competent to stand trial in the first place.

Nor, they argue, was Mr. Wood aware that his partner in the robbery, David Reneau, was carrying a gun, according to testimony presented at Mr. Reneau’s trial but never brought up during Mr. Wood’s trial.

These arguments failed to sway the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, however. On Tuesday afternoon, the seven-member board unanimously rejected a petition from Mr. Wood’s lawyers for a commutation of his sentence.

That means he will be executed Thursday evening, unless Gov. Rick Perry grants a 30-day reprieve or a judge issues a stay. “The governor hasn’t made a decision,” Mr. Perry’s spokeswoman, Allison Castle, said.

Mr. Wood, who is 35, also lost a motion before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Tuesday. His lawyers had asked the court to appoint a lawyer to pursue the argument that Mr. Wood lacks the mental competence to be executed.

Mr. Wood and Mr. Reneau were tried separately for the killing of Kriss Keeran, a 31-year-old cashier who was shot in the forehead during the robbery of a gas station and convenience store in Kerrville, Tex., on Jan. 2, 1996.

Mr. Reneau was executed in 2002.

The two robbers were roommates and knew the victim. Evidence at the two trials showed the pair had planned the robbery for about two weeks and had talks with Mr. Keeran and an assistant manager at the store, William Bunker, about staging a fake robbery.

But that plan went awry, and Mr. Reneau ended up walking into the store and shooting Mr. Keeran between the eyes with a .22-caliber pistol while Mr. Wood waited outside.

Then he and Mr. Wood carried the store safe and the store’s security camera out and retreated to a house belonging to Mr. Wood’s parents, where they tried to break open the safe. At the house, Mr. Wood bragged to a relative about the robbery.

A jury found Mr. Wood incompetent to stand trial after listening to testimony from a psychiatrist who said Mr. Wood was delusional and could not grasp reality. But after Mr. Wood spent a short stint in a mental hospital, a second jury found him competent. The judge did not let Mr. Wood’s lawyers cross-examine some witnesses at that hearing.

After his conviction, Mr. Wood wanted to represent himself in deliberations on his sentence, but the judge refused. Mr. Wood ordered his lawyers not to cross-examine any witnesses in the proceeding, a decision his lawyers at the time called “a gesture of suicide.” The jury voted for the death penalty.

Lucy Wilke, the Kerr County assistant district attorney who prosecuted Mr. Wood, did not return calls from a reporter. After Mr. Wood’s trial in 1988, she said that he was “not a dummy” and that the slaying was “cold-blooded, premeditated.”

Under the Texas “law of parties,” the question of whether Mr. Wood anticipated the murder is important. People who conspire to commit a felony are all responsible for an ensuing crime, like murder, if it can be shown they should have known it would happen.

The United States Supreme Court has upheld the principle, ruling in 1987 that the Constitution does not forbid the death penalty for a defendant “whose participation in a felony that results in murder is major and whose mental state is one of reckless indifference.”

At least seven people have been executed in the United States since 1985 for being accomplices in crimes during which one of their partners committed murder, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Three of those were executed in Texas.

David R. Dow, a law professor in Houston who oversees the Texas Defenders Project, which is trying to forestall the execution, said he doubted Mr. Wood was mentally competent to stand trial, much less that he knew in advance the murder would happen. In addition, Mr. Dow said, he did not receive proper legal representation during the sentencing phase.

“This case has in it virtually every feature that makes the death penalty system in Texas so scandalous,” he said.

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Tex Parte Blog Says Wood Should Not Die

John Council, senior reporter for Tex Parte Blog, says that Jeff Wood should not die and that prosecutors should not have sought the death penalty against him. He goes on to urge Perry to ignore the advice of the Board of Pardons and Paroles and grant him clemency anyhow. Perry has the power to grant a 30-day stay of execution without a recommendation from the BPP, so Perry could still take Council's advice and do that much, then Wood's lawyers could submit a new application to the Board of Pardons and Paroles, which Perry could urge them to accept.

After four years of seeing countless murdered people as a crime reporter and another 14 writing about criminal courts, not many people would describe me as a bleeding heart --- not even my mom. But I’ll go on record right here, Tex Parte readers, and make the case that Jeffrey Wood should not be put to death on Thursday. That’s because Wood didn’t kill anybody. According to the Houston Chronicle, he was the wheelman during a 1996 convenience store in Kerrville; another guy killed the clerk in the hold-up and has already been put to death. But under our famous law of parties, Wood is considered just as culpable under the Texas Penal Code as the shooter, so he got tried for the death penalty, and a jury gave it to him. More often than not, accomplices get threatened by police and prosecutors by the law of parties so they’ll agree to testify against the killer. But Wood had issues; he spent some time in a state mental hospital after a jury found him incompetent to stand trial. When he was later found competent to stand trial by a second jury, he tried to fire his lawyers in the middle of the trial, according to the Chronicle. Even though the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole voted 7-0 to not recommend that Gov. Rick Perry commute his sentence to life, Perry should do it anyway. He has my permission. Prosecutors shouldn’t have gone for death against Wood in the first place.

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Call the Governor to Save Jeff Wood

Please call the Governor of Texas at 512-463-2000
Office of the Governor Fax: (512) 463-1849
Tell the Governor to Issue a 30-day Stay of Execution to Jeff Wood
Jeff is Scheduled for Execution Thursday, Aug 21, so CALL NOW!

Send an Email to Governor Perry

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Board of Pardons and Paroles Votes 7-0 AGAINST Clemency for Jeff Wood

More later.

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Jeff Wood case raises questions, reports Houston Chronicle

Write the governor and Board of Pardons and Paroles and urge them to grant Jeff Wood clemency.

Please call the Governor of Texas at 512-463-2000
Office of the Governor Fax: (512) 463-1849
Tell the Governor and the Board of Pardons and Paroles to Grant Clemency to Jeff Wood
Jeff is Scheduled for Execution Thursday, Aug 21, so CALL NOW!

The Houston Chronicle reports in "Case of non-triggerman set to die raises questions"

His lawyers don't dispute that convicted killer Jeffery Wood deserves punishment for his involvement in a robbery more than a dozen years ago where a clerk at a Texas Hill Country gas station convenience store was gunned down.

But Woods' attorneys and supporters argue he doesn't deserve to die for a murder that occurred while he was waiting in a car outside the store in Kerrville. They also point out that Daniel Reneau, the gunman who killed clerk Kriss Keeran with a fatal shot to the face, already has been executed.

"Someone answered for this in terms of the death penalty," attorney Scott Sullivan said. "A non-triggerman shouldn't get the death penalty."

Wood, who turned 35 Tuesday, was set for execution Thursday in a case that again put under scrutiny a unique Texas law that makes accomplices as culpable as the killer in a capital murder case.

Wood would be the ninth condemned prisoner put to death this year and the fifth this month in the nation's busiest capital punishment state. At least a dozen other Texas inmates have execution dates in the coming months.

Lawyers were in the courts seeking permission to hire mental health experts to pursue arguments that Wood is incompetent to be executed. They also were unsuccessful convincing the trial judge in the Wood's case to withdraw Thursday's execution date.

Sullivan said he would take the arguments to the appeals courts.

Attorneys also went to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles seeking clemency for Wood.

"For all the fault he does bear for Keeran's untimely death (Wood) does not deserve to die," they said in a petition to the board, which was expected to make a recommendation Tuesday to Gov. Rick Perry. "He has never taken a human life by his own hands."

Wood's case was being compared to another convicted Texas killer, Kenneth Foster, whose death sentence was commuted a year ago by Perry. Foster also was condemned under the law of parties, although Perry's explanation for commuting Foster's sentence to life in prison was that Foster and his co-defendant were tried together on capital murder charges for a slaying in San Antonio.

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Board to Announce Decision Tuesday, Aug 19 on Jeff Wood

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles is expected to make their decision on Jeff Wood and announce it by tomorrow at 1 PM, that is Tuesday, August 19.

All letters and petition signatures need to be into the Board before then, so if you have anything to turn in and you are not in Austin to deliver it in person, the best thing is to fax it or send it overnight by fed-ex or some other service to the address:

Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles
General Counsel's Office
8610 Shoal Creek Boulevard
Austin, Texas 78758

Phone (512) 406-5852
Fax (512) 467-0945

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Pictures of Rally to Save Jeff Wood in Austin Aug 16






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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Video of Austin Rally to Save Jeff Wood



On August 16, there was a rally to Save Jeff Wood in Austin, Texas.

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Bob Ray Sanders Says Wood Does Not Deserve to Be Executed

Bob Ray Sanders, who writes a bi-weekly column for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, writes in his Sunday column that Jeff Wood "does not deserve to be executed".

Excerpt:

This newspaper editorialized against Foster’s execution and called for the Legislature to re-examine the law of parties.

Wood, convicted under the same law of parties, is set to be executed this week, five months before the next legislative session begins.

His case is more complicated than Foster’s and involves a series of issues that demand his sentence be commuted to life.

Although he was not tried with his co-defendant, a man who’s been executed for the 1996 murder of a Kerrville convenience store operator, prosecutors continued to link him to the killer.

"Daniel Reneau, who coldly murdered Kriss Keeran in the early morning hours of January 2, 1996, has already been executed by the State of Texas for this senseless act," according to a clemency petition submitted to the governor and the Board of Pardons and Paroles. "Nevertheless, on August 21, 2008, the State seeks to execute Jeffery Wood for the same crime, even though the State does not contend that Mr. Wood shot Keeran. In fact, Mr. Wood was not even in the building when Reneau shot and killed Keeran."

Wood was in on a scheme with Reneau to rob the store with the help of the store’s assistant manager, Bill Bunker, according to the petition. It was to have been an inside job, as Bunker had told the two men where the video recording devices were and how much money was expected to be in the safe.

When Reneau went into the store, Wood remained in a pickup and was later shocked by the sound of a gunshot. Reneau had killed Keeran.

The clemency petition suggests that Wood’s culpability for the crime should lie somewhere between Reneau’s and Bunker’s.

Reneau committed the murder and has been executed for it, but "Bunker — despite being a co-conspirator without whose agreement and encouragement the crime never would have occurred — was never charged with any crime," the petition said.

Other issues include whether Wood was even mentally competent to stand trial. One court said he wasn’t, but he was later declared competent. Although the trial court refused to let him represent himself, he, in effect, would not allow his court-appointed attorneys to do their job.

"Bowing to Mr. Wood’s emotional and irrational insistence, Mr. Wood’s appointed lawyers declined to cross-examine any witnesses or present any evidence on Mr. Wood’s behalf," the petition states. "Mr. Wood’s trial attorneys called Mr. Wood’s actions a 'gesture of suicide’ and objected on moral grounds to participating in the arrangement ordered by the trial court — effectively as legal vessels assisting Mr. Wood’s suicidal ends."

Then, in the punishment phase of the trial, the state called Dr. James Grigson (known widely as "Dr. Death") to the stand to testify that if Wood were not given the death penalty he would continue to be a danger to society. Grigson, who had already been discredited, got his nickname because of the hundreds of times he testified for the state in capital cases.

"Despite having a valid license, Grigson was a medical fraud, although Mr. Wood’s jury did not know it," the petition contends. "In 1995, three years before he testified in Mr. Wood’s trial, Grigson was expelled from the American Psychiatric Association and the Texas Society of Psychiatric Physicians for flagrant ethical violations related to his testimony purporting to predict future dangerousness. Because he was not cross-examined, Mr. Wood’s jury was not aware of this information. Nor did the State elicit it, despite its duty to see that justice is done and to disclose impeachment evidence."

At least 10 state legislators have written the Board of Pardons and Paroles, urging clemency for Wood.

I know the governor gets tired of hearing from me on death-penalty cases, but he must commute this sentence.

It is clear that Wood does not deserve to be executed, and no other person should be put to death under a law that many people believe should never have applied to capital cases.

The least we can do is wait until the Legislature deals with this law in its next session.

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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Cameron Willingham's Execution Being Investigated

The Houston Chronicle is reporting that the Texas Forensic Science Commission unanimously authorized the investigation into whether Cameron Willingham was wrongfully executed by Texas.

Cameron Willingham never stopped insisting he was innocent of murder. Even as he lay strapped to a gurney awaiting execution, the burly Corsicana auto mechanic denied setting the house blaze in which his 1-year-old twins and 2-year-old stepdaughter were incinerated.

Now, 17 years after the deadly fire and four years after the execution, a state commission charged with investigating negligence and misconduct complaints against forensic labs has agreed to look into allegations that Willingham was convicted and sentenced to die on fire officials' faulty testimony.

Meeting Friday in Houston, the nine-member Texas Forensic Science Commission unanimously authorized the investigation in response to a complaint filed by The Innocence Project, a New York City-based group dedicated to exonerating the wrongfully convicted.

The commission also agreed to investigate a 1986 West Texas arson fire in which two people died. Oilfield worker Ernest Willis, 63, was sentenced to die for the crime. But just months after Willingham's execution, a judge found Willis had been convicted on faulty scientific evidence and he was freed.

"These two cases in Texas are just the tip of the iceberg," Innocence Project co-director Barry Scheck said in an e-mail statement. "Across Texas and around the country, people are convicted of arson based on junk science that has been completely discredited for years."

The New York group buttressed its call for the investigations with a 48-page analysis of testimony from both trials. A five-member panel of national fire experts, who conducted the analysis, found much of the trials' expert testimony relied on outdated, invalid investigative criteria and called for improved training of fire investigators and prosecutors who handle such cases.

Using faulty standards
Commissioner Alan Levy, a member of the Tarrant County District Attorney's Office in Fort Worth, suggested that arson witnesses might not have been guilty of misconduct if they testified using standards accepted at the time.

"What you're saying," he told Innocence Project researcher Gabriel Oberfield, who was present for the session, "is that it was pretty much the Wild West back then. That the state of the science was dismal."

Oberfield responded that reliable investigative standards may or may not have been available at the time of the trial, but had been adopted long before Willingham's execution.

Investigative agencies, he contended, have a "continuing obligation" to inform courts when such critical standards are updated.

The Innocence Project's criticism of expert testimony in Willingham's trial centered primarily on comments made by Deputy State Fire Marshal Manuel Vasquez.

Under questioning by Navarro County District Attorney John Jackson, Vasquez told jurors he had found "puddle configurations" and "pour patterns" that indicated a flammable substance had been ignited on the floor.

Innocence Project investigators responded that such marks were caused by intense heat in the room creating a "flashover" — the instantaneous ignition of all combustible items in a room.

The only way to guarantee that an accelerant had been involved in a blaze, they wrote, is through laboratory testing for residue.

Vasquez told jurors that the fire originated in three locations — an indication that it had been deliberately set.

But the New York group's investigators countered that the three locations were, in fact, contiguous.

Vasquez said burn marks beneath a bed and under an aluminum plate in a door threshold were indicative of an arson.

"Each and every one of the 'indicators' listed by Mr. Vasquez means absolutely nothing, and, in fact, is expected in a context of a fire that has achieved full room involvement, as this fire clearly did," the investigators argued.

"Low burning, charred flooring, burning underneath items of furniture are common characteristics of a fully involved fire," they insisted. "They mean nothing with respect to the origin and cause of the fire."

Assertions criticized
The investigators also were critical of Vasquez's assertions to the jury that Willingham had lied.

"I talked to the occupant of this house and I let him talk and he told me a story of pure fabrication," Vasquez told jurors.

Fire, he testified, "tells the story. I am just the interpreter. I am looking at the fire, and I am interpreting the fire. That is what I know. That is what I do best. And the fire does not lie. It tells me the truth."

Vasquez died in 1994.

Jackson, now a Navarro County state district judge, was out of the office and could not be reached for comment.

Commission members delayed hiring an investigator to review the Willingham and Willis cases until their October meeting, but voted to ask the state fire marshal's office to respond to the Innocence Project's allegations.

Commissioners debated at length whether their investigator should be provided the critique penned by the Innocence Project's panel or simply advised of the complaint. No decision was reached.

The Legislature created the commission in 2005 in response to the Houston Police Crime lab scandal and irregularities with other forensic labs in the state.



At the 7th Annual March to Stop Executions in 2006, the family of Cameron Willingham delivered the letter below to Governor Rick Perry.

The Honorable Rick Perry
Governor of Texas
Austin, Texas

October 28, 2006

Dear Governor Perry,

We are the family of Cameron Todd Willingham. Our names are Eugenia Willingham, Trina Willingham Quinton and Joshua Easley. Todd was an innocent person executed by Texas on February 17, 2004. We have come to Austin today from Ardmore, Oklahoma to stand outside the Texas Governor’s Mansion and attempt to deliver this letter to you in person, because we want to make sure that you know about Todd’s innocence and to urge you to stop executions in Texas and determine why innocent people are being executed in Texas.

Todd was not the only innocent person who has been executed in Texas. There have been reports in the media that Ruben Cantu and Carlos De Luna were also innocent people who were executed in Texas. It is too late to save Todd’s life or the lives of Ruben Cantu or Carlos De Luna, but it is not too late to save other innocent people from being executed. We are here today to urge you to be the leader that Texas needs in order to make sure that Texas never executes another innocent person. There is a crisis in Texas regarding the death penalty and we ask you to address the crisis. Because the public can no longer be certain that Texas is not executing innocent people, we urge you to stop all executions.

Strapped to a gurney in Texas' death chamber, just moments from his execution for setting a fire that killed his three daughters, our son/uncle, Todd Willingham, declared his innocence one last time, saying "I am an innocent man, convicted of a crime I did not commit. I have been persecuted for 12 years for something I did not do." Todd is now dead and can no longer speak for himself, so we have come to Austin to speak for him.

Before Todd’s execution, you were given a report from a prominent fire scientist questioning the conviction, but you did not stop the execution. The author of the report, Gerald Hurst, has said, "There's nothing to suggest to any reasonable arson investigator that this was an arson fire. It was just a fire."

Another report issued in 2006 by a panel of national arson experts brought together by the Innocence Project concluded that the fire that killed Todd’s three daughters was an accident. The report says that Todd’s case is very similar to the case of Ernest Willis, who was convicted of arson murder and sentenced to death in 1987. Willis served 17 years in prison before he was exonerated in 2004 – the same year Todd was executed. The report says that neither of the fires which Todd and Ernest Willis were convicted of setting were arson. The report notes that the evidence and forensic analysis in the Willingham and Willis cases "were the same," and that "each and every one" of the forensic interpretations that state experts made in both men's trials have been proven scientifically invalid. In other words, Todd was executed based on “junk science”.

Please look into our son/uncle’s case and ask the District Attorney in Corsicana to reopen the investigation into the crime for which my brother was wrongfully executed. You should also establish an Innocence Commission in the next session of the Texas Legislature that could investigate my brother’s case, as well as other cases of possible wrongful executions, such as Ruben Cantu and Carlos De Luna.

Please ensure that no other family suffers the tragedy of seeing one of their loved ones wrongfully executed. Please enact a moratorium on executions and create a special blue ribbon commission to study the administration of the death penalty in Texas. Texas also needs a statewide Office of Public Defenders for Capital Cases. Such an office will go a long way towards preventing innocent people from being executed. A moratorium will ensure that no other innocent people are executed while the system is being studied and reforms implemented.

We look forward to hearing from you and we pledge to work with you to ensure that executions of innocent people are stopped.

Yours sincerely,

Eugenia Willingham
Stepmother of Cameron Todd Willingham who raised him from the age of 13 months


Trina Willingham Quinton
Niece of Cameron Todd Willingham


Joshua Easley
Nephew of Cameron Todd Willingham

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Friday, August 15, 2008

KUT Audio Report on Delivery of Petitions and Letters for Jeff Wood to Board of Pardons and Paroles

Today, we delivered a few thousand petition signatures and letters to the Board of Pardons and Paroles urging that Jeff Wood be granted clemency and spared the death penalty. We also delivered the letter from ten Texas legislators urging clemency.

KUT's Matt Largey reports on today's event. You can listen to his audio report here.

The report contains comments by Jeff's sister, Terri Been and Jeff's brother-in-law, Steven, as well as Rob Owen, director of UT's Capital Punishment Clinic.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Letter From Texas Legislators to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles Urging Commutation of Jeff Wood's Death Sentence

Below is a letter from ten Texas legislators to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles urging them to grant clemency to Jeff Wood. In addition to this letter, other legislators have told us that they are writing their own letters, including Rep. Dora Olivo and Rep. Mike Villareal.




Texas House of Representatives

August 12, 2008

Ms. Rissie Owens
Chair
Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles

Members of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles
Executive Clemency Section
8610 Shoal Creek Boulevard
Austin, Texas 78757

Dear Chairwoman Owens and Board Members:

We are writing to urge the Board to recommend commuting Jeffrey Wood's death sentence to a life sentence. Further, we hope that Governor Peny would act favorably on such a recommendation. As we are certain you are aware, Mr. Wood is set to be executed on August 21,2008.

Mr. Wood was convicted of capital murder under the Texas Law of Parties. It appears evident that he neither killed, nor anticipated that Daniel Earl Reneau would kill, Kris Keeran. He did not anticipate that a murder would occur and was not in the store when the murder took place. The shooter, Danny Reneau, has already been executed for this crime. When asked on death row to identify the shooter, Reneau had a oneword reply, "Me."

This case is similar to the case of Kenneth Foster, whose death sentence under the Law of Parties was commuted by Govemor Perry in 2007.

While Jeffrey Wood deserves to be imprisoned for his participation in the robbery, he should not be executed. We find the facts of his case, as well as the application of the Law of Parties, to be particularly bothersome.

The death penalty is supposed to be reserved for the worst of the worst. It seems clear to us that Jeffrey Wood is not a man for whom the death penalty should be applied. We respectfully request that clemency be granted.

Thank you very much for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Rep. Elliott Naishtat
District 49

Rep. Donna Howard
District 48

Rep. Lon Burnam
District 90

Ruth Jones McClendon
District 120

Rep. Alma Allen
District 131

Rep. Eddie Rodriguez
District 51

Rep. Sylvester Tumer
District 139

Rep. Harold Dutton
District 142

Rep. Jessica Farrar
District 148

Rep. Mark Strama
District 50




cc: The Honorable Rick Perry
Governor of Texas
State Capitol 2S.1

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Two Events in Austin to Save Jeff Wood: Petition Delivery on Friday, Rally on Saturday

Media Advisory

For immediate release: August 14, 2008

Contacts:

Scott Cobb, President
Texas Moratorium Network
512-689-1544

Terri Been B.S., M. Ed, Sister of Jeff Wood
mystrus@hotmail.com
254-371-5650

Kristin Wood, Wife of Jeff Wood
936-239-2182
kristinoftebro@gmail.com

Scott Sullivan
Jeff Wood's Attorney
210-227-6000

Family Members of Jeff Wood to Deliver Letters and Petition Signatures to Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles on Friday, August 15

Rally and March to Save Jeff Wood From Execution August 16 at Noon in Austin, Texas


Jeff Wood Did Not Kill Anyone. He Was Convicted Under the "Law of Parties"

Kristin Wood and Terri Been will deliver letters and thousands of petition signatures urging clemency for Jeff Wood to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles on Friday, August 15, in Austin at 1:30 PM. Kristin is Jeff Wood's wife and Terri is his sister. One of the letters was written by State Rep Elliott Naishtat and co-signed by several other members of the Texas House of Representatives, including Austin legislators Eddie Rodriguez, Donna Howard and Mark Strama. Kristin and Terri will answer media questions about Jeff's case before and after deliviering the letters to the board. The media is welcome to video the delivery of the letters and petition signatures.

The location where the letters will be delivered to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles is 8610 Shoal Creek Boulevard in Austin, Texas. Map

Rally and March to Save Jeff Wood on Saturday August 16 in Austin


A rally for Jeff Wood, who is waiting to die on Texas Death Row with an execution date of August 21st, 2008, will take place in Austin on Saturday, August 16, in front of the Texas Capitol on the sidewalk at 11th and Congress Avenue. The rally starts at noon. At 12:20, there will be a march down Congress Avenue to 6th Street and back to the Capitol. Speakers will address the rally both at noon and again when the participants return from marching down Congress Avenue.

Wood was sentenced to death under the "Law of Parties" for a murder he did not commit. The actual murderer was Daniel Reneau, who has already been executed by the state of Texas. Wood did not kill anyone and did not intend anyone to be killed. He did not know that Reneau would commit a murder.

What: "Save Jeff Wood" rally to stop the execution and urge clemency for Jeff Wood
Where: In front of The Capitol at 11th and Congress, Austin, Texas
When: Noon on Saturday August 16
Speakers Include: Terri Been, sister of Jeff Wood; Kristin Wood, wife of Jeff Wood; Danny Wood, father of Jeff Wood; plus representatives of Texas Moratorium Network, Texas Students Against the Death Penalty, Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement, Campaign to End the Death Penalty and others.

Last summer, Governor Perry commuted the death sentence of Kenneth Foster only hours before he was scheduled for execution. The Board of Pardons and Paroles had voted the day before to recommend clemency for Foster, who had been convicted under the "Law of Parties" even though he did not kill anyone. Now, Texas is set to execute another person who did not kill anyone but was sentenced to death under the Law of Parties.

The Coalition to Save Jeff Wood is asking the people of Texas to contact the governor and the Board of Pardons and Paroles and urge them to grant clemency to Jeff Wood, because he did not kill anyone. "Many Texans support the death penalty, but I do not believe that any reasonable person in Texas believes that a person like Jeff Wood should be executed who did not kill or intend to kill. Wood's sentence should be commuted just as Kenneth Foster's was commuted", said Scott Cobb of Texas Moratorium Network.

Charles Keeran, the father of Kris Keeran (the murder victim), has said that he does not want Wood executed and wants his sentence commuted to life in prison.


"Mr. Wood undeniably shares responsibility for what happened to Mr. Keeran, and should be held accountable for his reckless acts, but no man ever deserves to die for another man's acts," Wood's attorneys wrote in his petition to the Board of Pardons and Paroles. The 22-page petition can be read online by clicking here: http://texasdefender.org/woodptnclemency_filed20080804.pdf

Everyone - including law enforcement and prosecutors alike - agree that Jeffrey Wood did not kill anyone during the January 2, 1996 incident for which he was sentenced to death. The undisputed facts are that Kris Keeran was shot and killed by Daniel Reneau. During the episode, Jeffery Wood did not and could not have known that Reneau would murder Keeran. In fact, Wood was not even inside the store at the time of the murder. Wood was outside sitting unarmed in a vehicle.

Daniel Reneau was convicted of the murder of Kris Keeran and Reneau was executed on June 13, 2002. When the robbery took place on the morning of January 2, 1996, Wood was under the impression that Reneau was going in to the store to get "road drinks and munchies." Although it is true that Wood and Reneau had talked about robbing the store at the behest of the manager of the store, Wood backed out of the idea. The robbery was supposed to take place on the 1st, but after Wood backed out, Reneau decided to go through with the robbery on the 2nd on his own initiative and made the decision to kill Kris Keeran on his own. Wood had no idea that a murder or a even a robbery was going to take place on the morning of the 2nd. Before Reneau and Wood left the house on the morning of the 2nd, Wood told Daniel Reneau to put the gun away, which he did in front of Wood, but Reneau pulled the gun out again when Wood went to the restroom.

At approximately 6:00 a.m. on Jan. 2, 1996, while Jeff Wood waited outside, Daniel Reneau entered the gas station with a gun and pointed it at Kris Keeran, the clerk standing behind the counter. Reneau ordered him to a back room. When he did not move quickly enough, Reneau fired one shot with a 22 caliber handgun that struck Keeran between the eyes. Death was almost instantaneous. Proceeding with the robbery, Reneau went into the back office and took a safe. After hearing the shot, Wood got out of the car to see what was going on. He walked by the door and looked through the glass. Then he went inside, looked over the counter and ran to the back, where Reneau was. Wood was then ordered by Reneau at gunpoint to get the surveillance video and to drive the getaway car. Earlier, Reneau had threatened to kill Wood's young daughter if anyone ever "ratted" on Reneau, so with a gun pointed at him and a man already having been shot, Wood complied with Reneau's orders.

Additional facts:

* Wood suffers from severe mental, emotional and learning disabilities. He was abused and beaten severely and repeatedly as a child. He is submissive to more dominant personalities because of the abuse during his childhood.
* Wood was found not mentally fit to stand trial. He was admitted into a mental hospital and a couple of weeks later was found 'trial ready'.
* At trial, Wood was not satisfied with his representation. Wood asked to represent himself, but wasn't allowed to do so. The judge found him not capable of representing himself. The judge however, did not argue when Wood, in his diminished mental capacity, ordered his attorneys not to do anything during the punishment phase of his trial. The result was that Jeff had no witnesses during the punishment phase of his trial on his behalf. If his lawyers had been able to call witnesses during the penalty phase, the jury would have heard about Wood's mental problems and his abusive childhood and may not have sentenced him to death.
* The victim's father called the Governor of Texas on the day of Daniel Reneau's execution and urged the governor not to execute the person who actually killed his son, Daniel Reneau.

Visit the Save Jeff Wood website at www.savejeffwood.com for more information.

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Rally and March to Save Jeff Wood: Austin August 16

Rally and March to Save Jeff Wood
August 16, 2008
Austin, Texas at the Capitol
11th and Congress Avenue

Texas is scheduled to put a man to death this month even though he never killed anyone..

Jeff Wood was sentenced to death in 1998 for his role in the murder of Kris Keeran, a gas station attendant who was killed during a 1996 robbery.

But Wood did not kill Keeran. Danny Reneau, Wood's former roommate, was convicted of shooting Keeran between the eyes during the robbery Jan. 2, 1996. Reneau was executed in 2002.

Join us in Austin at noon on August 16 to Save Jeff Wood from Execution.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Mike Farrell Writes Letter Asking for Clemency for Jeff Wood

From: Mike Farrell

August 11, 2008

Ms. Rissie Owens, Chair
Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles
8610 Shoal Creek Blvd.
Austin, TX 78757

Dear Ms. Owens,

I write in support of clemency for Jeff Wood, who is scheduled to be executed in your state in ten days. Mr. Wood’s death sentence, as I‘m sure you’re aware, was based on an interpretation of your state’s “law of parties” that allows a death sentence in a situation where the individual in question not only was not directly responsible for a murder, but in fact may not even have been aware that such a thing would take place.

It’s my understanding that the Board you chair found reason to recommend clemency in a recent case, that of Kenneth Foster, for many of the reasons that now pertain in Mr. Wood’s case and I ask that you find it in your heart to handle this one in the same manner.

Because Texas now has enacted a sentence of life without parole into law, what is clear is that clemency for Mr. Wood could, if your recommendation to Governor Perry so suggested, simply exchange the death sentence for permanent imprisonment, ensuring that he would never be a threat of any kind to the people of your state.

Please, therefore, urge your Board to recommend clemency for Jeff Wood. Killing him will neither solve anything nor serve society in any way.

Sincerely,

Mike Farrell

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Texas Man Who Didn't Kill May Be Executed

Jeff Wood is scheduled for execution in Texas on August 21 despite the fact that he did not kill anyone. He was sentence to death under Texas' "Law of Parties". ABC News put a story on Jeff Wood on the front page of their national website on Friday, "Texas Man Who Didn't Kill May Be Executed: Jeff Wood Didn't Kill Kris Keeran, but He Is Set to Be Executed for Keeran's Death".

Excerpt from ABC News story:

Texas is scheduled to put a man to death this month even though he never killed anyone, in what would apparently be the first execution of its kind in more than a decade.

Jeff Wood was sentenced to death in 1998 for his role in the murder of Kris Keeran, a gas station attendant who was killed during a 1996 robbery.

But Wood did not kill Keeran. Danny Reneau, Wood's former roommate, was convicted of shooting Keeran between the eyes during the robbery Jan. 2, 1996. Reneau was executed in 2002.

Barring a commutation from the governor, Wood, 35, will be put to death Aug. 21.

Wood was the getaway driver while Reneau robbed the Kerrvill, Texas, gas station where Keeran worked. Reneau shot and killed Keeran after he refused to go along with a plan to fake a robbery and split the proceeds, according to court documents.

Wood, who told police Keeran was a friend, later admitted that he came into the store after hearing the gunshot that killed Keeran, court opinions in the case say. Wood then helped Reneau take the store VCR and surveillance tapes -- he claimed only after Reneau forced him to do so at gunpoint.

Wood was convicted under a Texas law known as the law of parties, which makes Wood equally responsible for crimes committed by his accomplices that "should have been anticipated" during the course of the robbery -- even if he did not commit the crimes.

Though most states have similar laws, often called felony murder statutes, they are rarely used in death penalty cases. The last execution under a similar law was in 1996, in Oklahoma, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. There have been seven such executions, excluding murder-for-hire cases, since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, according to the center.

Texas' law of parties statute is also broader than similar laws in most other states, said Robert Owen, director of the Capital Punishment Clinic at the University of Texas Law School.

"It's terribly risky to allow the death penalty to be imposed where the jury has to draw inferences about what was in the defendant's mind," said Owen. "There are serious questions about whether a getaway driver who might have anticipated that a death would take place should be death penalty eligible."

Some people who normally support the death penalty believe it is not warranted in this case:

From the Save Jeff Wood petition:

"Unlike many who have responded to this case, I am not an opponent of the death penalty. However, having read the circumstances of this case, it seems unconscionable that the State of Texas (my home for 30 years) could execute Jeff Wood. It is apparent that he was involved in a crime, and may have even been blackmailed into participation, however, that notwithstanding, he is not a murderer. There was no premeditation or even any knowledge on his part that a murder would occur, and was not in the store at the time of the shooting. I supported your refusal to back down on the Medellin execution. I have always believed in capital punishment. My Bible even seems to support it, but even in the Old Testament, it says "the murderer shall surely be put to death." Since you have already executed the shooter, that standard has been met. Jeff Wood should have never been found guilty of capital murder, regardless of his mental capacity. Please grant him clemency.
Larry & Cathy Giuliani, Parker, Colorado

Heliberto Chi was executed in Texas last week. He had been convicted and sentenced to death for a robbery/murder in a suburban Dallas store in 2001. The Houston Chronicle reported that an accomplice who drove the getaway car for Chi was given a life sentence instead of the death penalty:

The getaway driver at the murder scene, Hugo Sierra, who is the brother of Chi's girlfriend, is serving a life prison term.
On August 21, Texas plans to execute Jeff Wood for being the getaway driver for Daniel Reneau, who killed a clerk during a robbery. And Jeff Wood was forced by Reneau to drive the getaway car at gunpoint. In one case, the getaway driver does not get life under the law of parties, but in the other case the getaway driver gets the death sentence. This shows how arbitray capital sentencing is in Texas. Two similar cases, but with very different sentences for an accomplice who did not kill.

Even, Charles Keeran, the father of the victim who was killed by Daniel Reneau does not want Jeff Wood to die, he prefers that he serve life in prison. "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."

The lawyers for Jeff Wood have submitted an application for clemency to the Governor and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. You can read the entire 22 page application online here. They write, "Mr. Wood undeniably shares responsibility for what happened to Mr. Keeran, and should be held accountable for his reckless acts, but no man ever deserves to die for another man’s acts. Justice was served in this case when the State of Texas executed Daniel Reneau on June 13, 2002; the continued imprisonment of Mr. Wood will continue to serve justice".

Additional Facts:


* Wood suffers from severe mental, emotional and learning disabilities. He was abused and beaten severely and repeatedly as a child. He is submissive to more dominant personalities because of the abuse during his childhood.

* Wood was initially found not mentally fit to stand trial. He was admitted into a mental hospital and a couple of weeks later was found 'trial ready'.

* At trial, Wood was not satisfied with his representation. Wood asked to represent himself, but wasn't allowed to do so. The judge found him not capable of representing himself. The judge however, did not argue when Wood, in his diminished mental capacity, ordered his attorneys not to do anything during the punishment phase of his trial. The result was that Jeff had no witnesses during the punishment phase of his trial on his behalf. If his lawyers had been able to call witnesses during the penalty phase, the jury would have heard about Wood's mental problems and his abusive childhood and may not have sentenced him to death.

* The State’s use of the discredited Dr. James Grigson—nicknamed “Dr. Death”—in a non-adversarial proceeding guaranteed a death sentence for Mr. Wood. Indeed, his testimony, unopposed, compelled the jury to answer the special issues in the manner they did. His uncontested—un-cross-examined—testimony required the jury to find that Mr. Wood would be a future danger. Despite having a valid license, Grigson was a medical fraud, although Mr. Wood’s jury did not know it. In 1995, three years before he testified in Mr. Wood’s trial, Grigson was expelled from the American Psychiatric Association and the Texas Society of Psychiatric Physicians for flagrant ethical violations related to his testimony purporting to predict future dangerousness

* The victim's father called the Governor of Texas on the day of Daniel Reneau's execution and urged the governor not to execute the person who actually killed his son. The father also does not want Jeff Wood to die, preferring that his sentence be commuted to life in prison.

Visit the Save Jeff Wood website at www.savejeffwood.com for more information.

You can send an email to the Governor and the Board of Pardons and Paroles by clicking here.

You can sign an online petition supporting clemency for Jeff Wood here.

Call Governor Perry at (512) 463-2000. Make sure they take your message down that you do not want Jeff Wood executed.

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Friday, August 08, 2008

ABC News on Jeff Wood: Texas Man Who Didn't Kill to Be Executed

ABC News
Texas Man Who Didn't Kill to Be Executed
Jeff Wood Didn't Kill Kris Keeran, but He Is Set to Be Executed for Keeran's Death
By SCOTT MICHELS

Aug. 8, 2008 —

Texas is scheduled to put a man to death this month even though he never killed anyone, in what apparently would be the first execution of its kind in more than a decade.

Jeff Wood was sentenced to death in 1998 for his role in the murder of Kris Keeran, a gas station attendant who was killed during a 1996 robbery.

But Wood did not kill Keeran. Danny Reneau, Wood's former roommate, was convicted of shooting Keeran between the eyes during the robbery on Jan. 2, 1996. Reneau was executed in 2002.

Barring a last-minute commutation from the governor, Wood, 35, will be put to death on Aug. 21.

Wood was the getaway driver while Reneau robbed the Kerrvill, Texas, gas station where Keeran worked. Reneau shot and killed Keeran after he refused to go along with a plan to fake a robbery and split the proceeds, according to court documents.

Wood, who told police Keeran was a friend, later admitted that he came into the store after hearing the gunshot that killed Keeran, court opinions in the case say. Wood then helped Reneau take the store VCR and surveillance tapes -- he claimed only after Reneau forced him to do so at gunpoint.

Wood was convicted under a Texas law known as the law of parties, which makes Wood equally responsible for crimes committed by his accomplices that "should have been anticipated" during the course of the robbery -- even if he did not commit the crimes.

Though most states have similar laws, often called felony murder statutes, they are rarely used in death penalty cases. The last execution under a similar law was in 1996, in Oklahoma, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. There have been seven such executions, excluding murder-for-hire cases, since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, according to the center.

Texas' law of parties statute is also broader than similar laws in most other states, said Robert Owen, director of the Capital Punishment Clinic at the University of Texas Law School.

"It's terribly risky to allow the death penalty to be imposed where the jury has to draw inferences about what was in the defendant's mind," said Owen. "There are serious questions about whether a getaway driver who might have anticipated that a death would take place should be death penalty eligible."

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a person may be executed for a murder they did not commit or intend to commit if they were a "major participant" in the crime or acted with "reckless indifference to the value of human life."

Wood's appeals have been rejected by Texas and federal courts and he has appealed to the Texas board of pardons and Gov. Rick Perry for clemency. A spokeswoman for the pardons board declined to comment. It will review Wood's case Aug. 19 and make a recommendation to Perry.

One of the few death sentences Perry has commuted came last year in the case of Kenneth Foster, who was also sentenced to death for acting as a getaway driver during a robbery that ended in murder.

Prosecutors in Wood's trial and appeals did not return calls for comment. Kerr County Assistant District Attorney Lucy Wilke, in a letter to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, called Wood "the mastermind of this senseless murder," noting that Wood told his brother to destroy the surveillance tape after watching it together, according to the San Antonio Express.

After initially denying involvement in the robbery, Wood admitted in a statement to police that he knew Reneau was going to rob the gas station, that Reneau planned to bring a gun and might use it if Keeran didn't cooperate, according to court opinions.

Wood's family says the statement was coerced and point to testimony from a witness at Reneau's trial who said that Wood didn't know Reneau was bringing a gun. That testimony was not admitted at Wood's trial, according to his clemency petition.

His wife and father say Wood, who was initially found mentally incompetent to stand trial, is eager to please and has trouble understanding information.

"He had a very strong need to be accepted," his wife, Kristin, said. "He very easily went along with whoever wanted to accept him. That's why he ended up in bad company."

"He didn't know how to process information the way other people do," said Wood's father, Daniel. "He didn't know how to plan, he didn't know how to put things together. He loved to fish, but he couldn't plan for freshwater versus saltwater. His solution was to bring everything."

A jury found Wood guilty after deliberating for about 90 minutes. During the penalty phase of the trial, during which defense lawyers try to persuade the jury to spare the defendant's life, Wood told his lawyers not to call any witnesses or cross-examine any prosecution witnesses.

His trial lawyer said he was morally opposed to Wood's decision, calling it "a gesture of suicide," court papers say. Wood's clemency petition, filed earlier this week, called the penalty portion of the trial "a complete breakdown of the adversarial process."

Wood's family has organized a small grass-roots campaign to persuade the governor to spare his life. "He was always compassionate and involved with making things easier for other people," Daniel Wood said of his son. "He wanted to be important."

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Thursday, August 07, 2008

Couple Supports Capital Punishment but Opposes Execution of Jeff Wood

From the Save Jeff Wood petition:

"Unlike many who have responded to this case, I am not an opponent of the death penalty. However, having read the circumstances of this case, it seems unconscionable that the State of Texas (my home for 30 years) could execute Jeff Wood. It is apparent that he was involved in a crime, and may have even been blackmailed into participation, however, that notwithstanding, he is not a murderer. There was no premeditation or even any knowledge on his part that a murder would occur, and was not in the store at the time of the shooting. I supported your refusal to back down on the Medellin execution. I have always believed in capital punishment. My Bible even seems to support it, but even in the Old Testament, it says "the murderer shall surely be put to death." Since you have already executed the shooter, that standard has been met. Jeff Wood should have never been found guilty of capital murder, regardless of his mental capacity. Please grant him clemency.
Larry & Cathy Giuliani, Parker, Colorado

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Chi Executed, His Get-Away Driver Serving Life

Heliberto Chi was executed in Texas tonight. He had been convicted and sentenced to death for a robbery/murder in a suburban Dallas store in 2001.

The Houston Chronicle reports that an accomplice who drove the get-away car was given a life sentence instead of the death penalty:

The getaway driver at the murder scene, Hugo Sierra, who is the brother of Chi's girlfriend, is serving a life prison term.
On August 21, Texas plans to execute Jeff Wood for being the get-away driver for Daniel Reneau, who killed a clerk during a robbery. And Jeff Wood was forced by Reneau to drive the get-away car at gunpoint. In once case, the get-away driver does not get life under the law of parties, but in the other case the get-away driver gets the death sentence. This shows how arbitray capital sentencing is in Texas. Two cases very similar, but with very different outcomes.

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Copy of Clemency Petition for Jeff Wood Submitted to Texas Governor and Board of Pardon and Paroles

This is the clemency petition for commutation of the death sentence of Jeff Wood. He is scheduled for execution in Texas on August 21, 2008. If you can not read it below, click here.

This clemency petition was submitted by Jeff Wood's lawyers to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and the Texas Governor.

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