Sunday, August 14, 2016

The death row inmate set to be executed for murder... even though he hasn't killed anyone: Man who backed out of fatal armed robbery faces lethal injection in Texas

A Texas inmate on death row is scheduled to die at the end of the month, despite not having killed anybody. Jeffrey Lee Wood, who is scheduled to die on August 24 - five days after his 42nd birthday - is on death row for a 1996 murder he did not commit and, according to some, did not know was going to be committed.

His case is rare, according to the Houston Chronicle, although Texas does allow for this type of execution.

A law called 'the law of parties', which began in the 1970s, states that anyone who 'solicits, encourages, directs, aids, or attempts to aid the other person to commit an offense' is just as responsible for the crime that occurs.

Under the law of parties, Wood was found guilty after waiting in a Texaco convenience store for Daniel Reneau in Kerrville, Texas.  Reneau went inside and shot dead the store clerk with a .22-caliber handgun.

Wood says he thought Reneau was going in to the store to buy food and drinks, but Wood is not totally free of guilt.

Court records say Wood and Reneau were in cahoots to rob the store of a safe they believed contained thousands of dollars.  Wood backed out. Reneau decided to go forward with the plot.

Wood's then-girlfriend testified that Wood asked Reneau to leave his gun before the two went to the convenience store that day.  Allegedly, Reneau brought the gun without Wood's knowledge.

The defense argued that Wood could not have anticipated the death of Kris Keeran, the store's clerk, and was being held responsible for Reneau's decision to murder the man.

Both men were convicted, sentenced to death and in 2002 Reneau was given a lethal injection.

Wood has sat on death row for 18 years. His daughter was a baby when he was convicted. She now says she has recurring nightmares about watching her father be executed and sometimes wakes up screaming.  

Scott Cobb, president of Texas Moratorium Network, who advocate against capital punishment, said if Wood is killed on August 24, he will be the 'least culpable person executed in the modern era of death penalty'.  

A writ of habeas corpus has been filed to the state's highest court in hopes of a new sentencing hearing.

The filing highlights that Wood has 'debilitating emotional and intellectual impairments' and was vulnerable to manipulation, like that of Reneau.

With an IQ of 80 and a diagnosis of being borderline mentally impaired, Wood was initially committed to a mental health hospital and a neuropsychologist told the court that Wood was unable to grasp issues in the case facing him. But after 15 days in the hospital he was released and the jury never knew about the neuropsychologist's findings.

This month, 16 Roman Catholic bishops in Texas wrote to Texas governor Greg Abbott, imploring him to grant a stay of execution to Wood.  'Mr. Wood has never taken a human life in his own hands.  '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 reads.

Former governor Rick Perry granted a stay to Kenneth Foster Jr, who was also convicted of capital murder under the law of parties.

Original report here

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