death penalty news—–TEXAS

Aug. 22


Stay of execution: Groups champion ruling Judge grants Jeffrey Wood
indefinite stay; hearing likely in 2009

Members of anti-death-penalty groups stood outside the Capitol and
chanted, "They said death row; we say hell no!" shortly after U.S.
District Judge Orlando Garcia granted Jeffrey Wood an indefinite stay of
execution Thursday.

In 1997, a jury convicted Wood as an accomplice in the murder of a
convenience store clerk and sentenced him to death. Under the
controversial Texas Law of Parties, individuals may be held responsible
for a committed offense if they intended to promote or assist the crime.

Scott Sullivan, one of Wood's attorneys, said the judge issued a stay to
determine if Wood is mentally ill or competent. Sullivan said Wood should
not be executed because psychologists diagnosed him with emotional and
psychological impairments. The state decided not to appeal the stay of
execution, and officials transported Wood from Huntsville back to death
row in Livingston, Texas.

On the morning of Jan. 2, 1996, Wood waited in a car outside a Gold Star
Texaco convenience store in Kerrville while his friend, Daniel Reneau,
robbed the store and shot clerk Kris Keeran in the head. After the
shooting, Wood helped Reneau carry away the safe, cash drawer and
videotape recorder.

Reneau was also sentenced to death and executed in 2002.

Sullivan and Jared Tyler, also one of Wood's attorneys, submitted a
clemency petition to Gov. Rick Perry and the members of the Texas Board of
Pardons and Paroles asking them to commute Wood's sentence to life
imprisonment. In the petition, they contended that Wood shares
responsibility for what happened but that no man deserves to die for
another man's act.

Dr. James Grigson, a psychiatrist called by the state, testified at the
trial that Wood represents a threat to society and might commit future
acts of violence.

Members of the Texas Moratorium Network, a grassroots organization
supporting a moratorium on executions in Texas, and the Campaign to End
the Death Penalty helped to organize the protest in front of the Capitol.

"We are happy that we have more time to make the case that Jeff Wood does
not deserve to be executed because he has mental illnesses and because he
did not kill anyone," said Scott Cobb, president of the moratorium

Sullivan said he expects a hearing on Wood's competence to be scheduled
sometime in February or March.

(source: Daily Texan)


Stay Doesnt Stop Death Penalty Protest

A small number of death penalty opponents didn't let the stay of execution
given to Jeff Wood stop them from protesting at the State Capitol. Matt
Tedrow says there are still many issues surrounding the Wood case that
need settling. "We're not done here. We're going to have to be back hereI
don't know whenin order to hopefully get him off death row permanently,"
he said.

Wood was the driver in a fatal convenience store robbery. He was convicted
of capital murder under the law of parties, which makes an accomplice just
as liable for a capital crime as the trigger-man. His death penalty stay,
however, is not related to the arguments over that law. A federal judge
yesterday delayed the execution so Wood's attorneys can hire a mental
health expert to pursue their arguments that he is not competent to be

(source: KLBJ Radio)


Federal Judge, Chastising the Texas Courts, Orders a Stay of Execution

With only hours until his scheduled execution, a man won a stay Thursday
when a federal judge granted him a hearing to determine whether he was
mentally competent.

The condemned man, Jeffery Lee Wood, 35, was to be put to death Thursday
evening for a killing committed by his partner in a 1996 robbery. But the
execution was put off for at least six months by the decision of the
judge, Orlando Luis Garcia of the Federal District Court in San Antonio,
who suggested that he would hold the hearing next February or March.

The Texas attorney general, Greg Abbott, had yet to decide Thursday night
whether he would appeal the decision, said a spokeswoman for his office,
Lauri Saathoff.

Mr. Wood's lawyers argue that he is too delusional to understand why he is
to die and thinks that among other things he is the victim of a Freemason

Judge Garcia wrote that Mr. Wood's bizarre statements at his trial and in
prison at least arguably suggest the petitioner lacks a rational
understanding of the causal link between his role in his criminal offense
and the reason he has been sentenced to death."

The judge said the Texas courts erred badly in the last week when they
refused to hire mental health experts to determine whether Mr. Wood was
mad or to appoint a lawyer to represent him at a competency hearing.

The United States Supreme Court has held that it is unconstitutional to
execute insane people who cannot understand why they are being put to
death or that their execution is imminent.

Judge Garcia said lawyers for Mr. Wood had submitted enough evidence of a
delusional state of mind to warrant a hearing on the matter, and he
strongly chastised the state courts for denying Mr. Wood a lawyer and a
psychologist to help make that claim.

Mr. Wood was caught in a Catch-22, the judge said. The state courts ruled
that he had to show he was insane for them to appoint a lawyer and a
psychologist to help him prove he was insane. That, the judge said, is "an
insane system."

Mr. Wood has a very limited intellect and a history of emotional problems,
learning disabilities and, in prison, suicide attempts.

"He will become delusional and deny the apparent reality right in front of
him," said one of his lawyers, J. Scott Sullivan. "He has a delusion a
bribe would solve this whole problem."

Mr. Wood was arrested shortly after his partner in crime, Daniel Reneau,
fatally shot a cashier during the robbery of a gas station 12 years ago.
Mr. Wood was outside in a getaway car when the shot was fired by Mr.
Reneau, who was executed in 2002.

Mr. Woods mental problems were severe enough that one jury found him
incompetent to stand trial. After spending time in a mental hospital, he
was found competent by a second jury. In 1998, he was convicted of murder
under a Texas law that makes all who are involved in a felony, like
robbery, subject to the death penalty if one of them commits murder in the
course of it.

Evidence of Mr. Woods mental troubles was never brought before the jury
that imposed the death penalty, largely because he became angry and told
his lawyers to do nothing during the penalty phase, instructions with
which they complied. In his ruling on Thursday, Judge Garcia said that
this behavior by Mr. Wood was "bizarre, seemingly paranoid and clearly

(source: New York Times)