1. Welcome! Please take a few seconds to create your free account to post threads, make some friends, remove a few ads while surfing and much more. ClutchFans has been bringing fans together to talk Houston Sports since 1996. Join us!

Texas About to Execute Man who didn't kill anyone

Discussion in 'BBS Hangout: Debate & Discussion' started by rocketsjudoka, Aug 12, 2016.

  1. rocketsjudoka

    rocketsjudoka Contributing Member

    Jul 24, 2007
    Likes Received:
    This is a very disturbing case and points out some of the problems with the death penalty. Jeffrey Lee Wood is about to be executed this month in a crime where he didn't commit the murder and probably didn't know one was going to be committed. Further the actual murderer has already been executed.


    In Texas, a man who didn’t kill anybody is about to be executed for murder

    Terri Been’s voice shook as she read a long text message from her niece.

    “I had a nightmare about my dad last night,” Paige Rowan told her aunt in the text.

    Rowan described a dream in which she watched helplessly as the execution needle pierced her father’s skin.

    She woke up screaming, panicking and feeling hopeless, she told Been.

    Then, she said, she dropped to her knees and prayed.

    “Please don’t allow this to happen,” Rowan wrote. “Don’t take my father away.”

    Been struggled to finish reading the text message, her voice breaking as she paused several times to regain her composure during an interview with The Washington Post.

    The message was sent Sunday, Been said, less than three weeks ahead of the date her niece has come to dread: Aug. 24, when the Texas Department of Criminal Justice plans to inject Jeffrey Lee Wood with a lethal dose of pentobarbital to stop his heart.

    Rowan’s nightmares have been happening more often as her father’s execution date looms closer.

    It is so close now that she can feel it, Rowan told her aunt.

    The scheduled execution is Wood’s punishment for the 1996 death of a man he did not kill — and, by some accounts, did not know was going to be killed.

    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.

    [The priest, the exonerated death-row inmate and their continued battle against the death penalty]

    Wood was convicted and sentenced to death under what’s called the law of parties, which has been in effect in Texas since the 1970s. It 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.

    Jeff Wood (Courtesy of Terri Been Jeffrey Lee Wood (Courtesy of Terri Been)
    Under the law, prosecutors are not required to prove that a defendant had any part in committing a crime, or even intended to commit it. Jurors only need to find that there was a plan to commit a crime 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 convenience store in Kerrville, Tex., 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 had met months earlier, was only going to buy food and drinks.

    But they also agree that Wood is not completely innocent.

    Court records say he was involved in a scheme with Reneau and the store’s assistant manager to steal a safe that they believed contained thousands of dollars. While the others had backed out, Reneau took it upon himself to steal the safe, 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, without Wood’s knowledge.

    Wood’s attorney, Jared Tyler, said his client could not have anticipated the death of the clerk, Kris Keeran, and was unfairly held responsible for Reneau’s actions and decisions.

    Both men were convicted of capital murder. Reneau was put to death in 2002.

    Wood has been on death row since 1998, when his daughter, Paige Rowan, was a toddler.

    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.

    Tyler has filed a writ of habeas corpus — used to review the legality of someone’s imprisonment — asking the state’s highest court for a new sentencing hearing for Wood, saying punishment should be proportional to culpability.

    Wood’s death sentence, Tyler said, was based on “false and misleading” testimony from a psychiatrist who did not personally examine his client.

    Bruce Curry, the Kerr County district attorney whose office prosecuted Wood’s case, said he could not comment because of the pending court decision. A spokeswoman for the Texas Attorney General’s Office, which is handling the case, also declined to comment.

    Tyler is ultimately asking the court to declare the state’s death penalty unconstitutional “because of its arbitrariness and inability to ensure that only the worst of the worst receive death sentence,” according to court records.

    That raises a question for Terri Been: How is her brother, a man without a violent criminal history, the worst of the worst?

    A child in a man’s body

    At 12, Wood was described as a “highly impulsive” and “very troubled” youngster who often had negative opinions of himself.

    When he was 15, he frequently asked how he was doing at school, often assuming he’d flunked, according to the writ of habeas corpus.

    By the time he reached high school, he was spelling at a fourth-grade level and reading at a fifth-grade level. He is borderline mentally disabled with an IQ of 80.

    His mother described him as an “eight-year-old in a man’s body.”

    These “debilitating emotional and intellectual impairments” made Wood vulnerable to Reneau’s manipulation and rendered him unable to comprehend what Reneau was capable of doing, court records say. Because of those impairments, his attorney argued, Wood should have been declared incompetent to stand trial.

    And he was — at least initially.

    Wood was committed to a mental health hospital after he was found incompetent. A neuropsychologist had testified that Wood was delusional, unable to grasp the issues about his case and the reality facing him.

    But Wood was released after 15 days in the hospital. Court records say the hospital tested his factual understanding of legal proceedings but not his ability to be rational.

    This time, he was deemed competent to stand trial. A jury, not knowing about the neuropsychologist’s assessment of his mental state, found him guilty of capital murder.

    The writ of habeas corpus, filed in July, spotlights something else the jury did not know: the troubled history of a forensic psychiatrist whose testimony resulted in Wood’s death sentence.

    James Grigson was no stranger to capital murder cases: By the time Wood went on trial, in 1998, Grigson said he had testified in 163 such cases.

    Prosecutors often sought his testimony to secure the ultimate punishment for defendants.

    Often, they were successful, earning Grigson a nickname: “Dr. Death.”

    Grigson didn’t personally examine Wood. But during the sentencing phase of the trial, the forensic psychiatrist told jurors that Wood would “most certainly” commit violent crimes in the future, according to court records.

    The prosecuting attorney elicited that response by describing a hypothetical situation that laid out the facts of the case.

    What jurors didn’t know was that Grigson, so beloved by prosecutors, was reviled in his own field.

    In 1995, three years before Wood’s trial, Grigson was expelled from the American Psychiatric Association and its Texas branch at that time, the Texas Society of Psychiatric Physicians, for predicting a defendant’s potential threat to society based solely on a hypothetical. The expulsions followed an investigation by the Texas association’s ethics committee, which cited Grigson’s “willfully narrow rendition of psychiatric knowledge.”

    In a profile published after Grigson’s death in 2004, the Houston Chronicle cited his unusual willingness to testify against capital murder defendants. A former prosecutor who used Grigson in several trials told the newspaper that he was an “outstanding communicator who really connected with a jury.”

    But the psychiatric association saw Grigson as a threat to the profession.

    In the writ of habeas corpus, Tyler asked the Texas court to find that Grigson’s testimony about Wood was false and misleading.

    A controversial law

    Since 1976, there have been 1,437 executions in the United States.

    More than a third of them have taken place in Texas, which has executed 537 people over that period, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

    Oklahoma and Virginia have the next-highest figures, with 112 and 111 executions respectively since 1976.

    Executions of people who did not directly kill the victim are extremely rare: The Death Penalty Information Center lists just 10 such instances that didn’t involve contract killings. Half were in Texas under the law of parties.

    In recent years, there have been efforts to reform Texas law so that someone who didn’t kill won’t be executed. So far, those efforts have failed.

    Last year, state Rep. Harold Dutton, a Democrat from Houston, introduced a bill that would ban the death penalty in law of parties cases. The bill, however, did not get a vote on the floor.

    Tim Cole, a former Texas prosecutor and defense attorney, said the law of parties erases the distinction between an accomplice and someone who pulled the trigger.

    “The legal argument is that, obviously, if you look at moral culpability in terms of who’s most culpable, it’s the person who actually committed the crime,” Cole told The Post. “In most circumstances, most people would think the other person who pulls the trigger should be subject to a higher level of punishment than the other person.”

    Cole echoes what the U.S. Supreme Court has said in the past.

    In a 1982 case involving the robbery and murder of an elderly Florida couple, the high court threw out the death-penalty sentence of a man who was in a getaway car when the killings happened. Someone who participated in the robbery shouldn’t be treated the same as the person who committed the killings, the court said.

    But there are exceptions, Cole said. One example is a murder-for-hire case in which the triggerman was following orders from someone else.

    Wood’s looming execution comes as prosecutors are seeking the death penalty less frequently than they used to, partly because of budgetary reasons. The public’s attitude toward the death penalty also has dramatically shifted, as shown by Gallup’s documentation of public opinion. Thirty-five percent opposed capital punishment in 2013, up from 16 percent in 1994.

    In 1998, the year Wood was condemned to death, 295 people were sentenced to death in the United States, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Last year, 49 death sentences were handed down nationwide.

    Executions are down, as well: In 1999, nearly a hundred condemned prisoners were executed in the United States. That number was down to 28 last year, according to Death Penalty Information Center data.

    Had Wood been charged today, he wouldn’t have been facing the death penalty, said Cole, who now teaches Texas criminal procedure at the University of North Texas.

    “I really don’t think that this case would be prosecuted under today’s standards and under today’s climate — even in Texas,” he said. “It’s just not the type of situation in today’s climate for the death penalty where most prosecutors would seek the death penalty.”

    [Americans are turning against the death penalty. Are politicians far behind?]

    Wood’s case also has attracted attention from those outside the criminal justice system.

    Earlier this month, 16 Roman Catholic bishops from across the state wrote a letter to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) urging him to grant a stay on Wood’s execution.

    “Mr. Wood has never taken a human life in his own hands,” the letter reads. “He was not even in the building at the time of the crime. It is extremely rare for any person in the history of modern death penalty to have been executed with as little culpability and participation in the taking of a life as Mr. Wood.”

    The letter was sent not long after relatives and supporters of Wood gathered outside the Governor’s Mansion in Austin and called on Abbott to call off Wood’s execution and commute his sentence.

    Some wore T-shirts that said “Punish action. Not affiliation,” the Texas Tribune reported.

    In 2007, then-Gov. Rick Perry granted clemency to Kenneth Foster Jr., who, like Wood, was convicted and sentenced to death under the law of parties.

    Wood’s legal team recently submitted his petition for clemency to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. An online petition supporting Wood has garnered nearly 2,500 signatures.

    He turns 42 on Aug. 19, a few days before his scheduled execution.

    Been, a science department chair at a middle school in Dilley, Tex., said her brother has always believed he will be spared.

    She’s not as optimistic.

    Been already said goodbye to her brother once, in 2008; his initial execution date was postponed because of issues with his competence.

    Panic sets in every time she thinks about doing it all over again.

    “I don’t have much time left,” she said.
  2. Bobbythegreat

    Bobbythegreat Member
    Supporting Member

    Jan 23, 2013
    Likes Received:
    Should be a cautionary tale, you make plans with a group to rob people and someone dies, you might get punished for it even if you don't pull the trigger. It's hard being a criminal.
  3. Liberon

    Liberon Rookie

    Nov 10, 2009
    Likes Received:
    If he didn't commit the crime he shouldn't be put to death. What is your problem?
  4. Space Ghost

    Space Ghost Contributing Member

    Feb 14, 1999
    Likes Received:
    Hes trolling.
  5. sirbaihu

    sirbaihu Member

    Nov 2, 2006
    Likes Received:
    I prefer the term "crucify."

  6. heypartner

    heypartner Contributing Member

    Oct 27, 1999
    Likes Received:
    Was John Stone his defense attorney?
  7. JumpMan

    JumpMan Contributing Member
    Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Jun 22, 2004
    Likes Received:
    Being against the death penalty means you would disagree with this as you would any other execution, but this becomes debatable if you're (a) for the death penalty and (b) a part of the victim's family.
  8. R0ckets03

    R0ckets03 Contributing Member

    Nov 11, 1999
    Likes Received:
    I'm all for the death penalty, but this is just wrong. To the posters above, it is okay to disagree with a belief you have on a case by case basis.

    Nothing proves that Woods knew a crime, much less a murder was going to be committed. Didn't read the entire article, but the main evidence against him is from a psychologist that didn't even examine Woods personally? Unbelievable!
  9. StupidMoniker

    StupidMoniker I lost a bet
    Supporting Member

    Jul 18, 2001
    Likes Received:
    I am against the death penalty, but I don't see it being applied unfairly or unreasonably in this case. Accomplice liability means that the accomplice is just as culpable for the acts of the principal as the principal himself. If you go in to rob a liquor store, and I wait outside and keep watch, and our friend Sue drives the getaway car, we are all guilty of robbery, even if you are the only one that went into the store with a gun. The fact that Wood was not the principal is thus irrelevant. Knowing about this case only what I read in the article, it is open to question whether or not Wood is actually guilty, but presumably there has been a trial and lengthy appeals process to deal with that issue. They shouldn't execute him because they shouldn't execute anyone, not because his case is so different from any other.
  10. bnb

    bnb Contributing Member

    Jul 7, 2002
    Likes Received:
    According to the article only 10 of 1437 executions have involved someone who didn't pull the trigger or who was involved in a contract killing. So it is a little different from any other.

    Trial would absolutely have had much more info than this opinion piece, but still...this seems so incredibly wrong for what appears to have been a robbery with no intent to kill. He does share some culpability but not to the death penalty level I would hope.
  11. GladiatoRowdy

    GladiatoRowdy Contributing Member

    Oct 15, 2002
    Likes Received:
  12. leroy

    leroy Contributing Member

    Jun 25, 2002
    Likes Received:
    If you went to the store with your friend who you had no idea was going to rob and or kill someone, are you just as responsible just because you were in the vicinity?

    He isn't a saint but what he is on death row for is not something that people should be on death row for.
    #12 leroy, Aug 12, 2016
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2016
  13. Exiled

    Exiled Member

    Dec 20, 2013
    Likes Received:
    moral of the story , if you 've a reckless friend , who got a parking ticket , you should pay the fine too
  14. Sweet Lou 4 2

    Sweet Lou 4 2 Contributing Member
    Supporting Member

    Dec 16, 2007
    Likes Received:
    I think this is justice. I mean, this is how it's done in places like Saudi Arabia - so that's how it should work in the U.S. right?
  15. Buck Turgidson

    Feb 14, 2002
    Likes Received:
    This is an incredibly sad story, but it is how the law is currently written and applied to people who are in fact guilty of involvement. Maybe some day the TX Supreme Court will be different, laws will change and....
  16. dandorotik

    dandorotik Contributing Member

    Dec 11, 2002
    Likes Received:
    You're a bit of a sick individual. You are exactly the type of person who needs to have something like a murder weapon planted on him to realize that, yes, there are instances where you can't just use the bull**** , "well, if they hadn't been there...." Your narrow-mindedness is really troubling. Please don't ever sit on a jury.
  17. Amiga

    Amiga 80s
    Supporting Member

    Sep 18, 2008
    Likes Received:
    It is sad for the daughter.

    Borderline mental capacity also add an extra dimension of unfairness and backwardness of the Texas's capital punishment system and society.
  18. Bobbythegreat

    Bobbythegreat Member
    Supporting Member

    Jan 23, 2013
    Likes Received:
    He did commit the crime though. The laws on the books say that if you are a part of a group that commits a crime and someone is murdered, you are all guilty of murder even if you didn't pull the trigger. He went in with the guy in a plot to rob the place and someone was murdered thus making him guilty of murder even though he didn't pull the trigger. He also tried to cover up the murder by trying to take the surveillance tape and murder weapon with the hopes of helping the guy who did pull the trigger.

    This guy wasn't innocent though. Look into the case and try to come back with an intelligent take. The guy was involved in a plot to rob the safe and when that plot was underway his co-conspirator murdered someone. He then tried to help cover up the murder for his partner. Under the law, they are both guilty of murder.
  19. Cohete Rojo

    Cohete Rojo Contributing Member

    Oct 29, 2009
    Likes Received:
    It'll teach him and others not to participate in these kinds of criminal acts.

    A human being was middered, and this man was responsible.

    REEKO_HTOWN I'm Rich Biiiiaaatch!

    Jun 26, 2008
    Likes Received:
    It's been well documented that the death penently isn't a deterrent.

Share This Page