death penalty news—-TEXAS

Mar. 21


DA Seeks Death Penalty In De Jesus Slaying

Brazoria County District Attorney Jeri Yenni said on Friday that she would
seek the death penalty in the slaying of Susana De Jesus, Local 2 News

The Pearland woman was kidnapped at gunpoint from a shopping center
parking lot in February, prompting a month-long search. The 37-year-old
was found dead inside a trailer earlier this month near Reliant Arena in

The break in the case came when Nicolas-Michael Jean, 21, was arrested for
a carjacking on Lyndhaven in Pearland. He was captured after sheriff's
investigators said he fired shots while forcing a man into the trunk of a
car on March 9.

Deputies said he then led them to the body of De Jesus and admitted during
questioning that he was present when she was killed.

Yenni said on Friday that an autopsy concluded De Jesus was shot to death,
and she said she would seek the death penalty against Jean after a grand
jury considers a capital murder indictment in mid-April.

For now, Jean is locked up in the Brazoria County Jail on charges stemming
from the carjacking. The list of charges from that crime includes
attempted murder, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated robbery, burglary, and
theft of a firearm.

No one was hurt in the carjacking.

Investigators said earlier that a gun taken from a home burglarized by
Jean was the weapon used to kill De Jesus, and deputies believe he pulled
the trigger, even though he denies that.

A suspected accomplice, Wallace Charles Ledet IV, 25, is also jailed in
connection with the Pearland carjacking, and investigators said he is also
suspected of being involved in the kidnapping and murder of De Jesus.

Yenni said a grand jury next week will consider indictments against both
men for the carjacking ordeal, but she told Local 2 News that her staff
would present the capital murder case to a different grand jury in 3

She declined to say whether the accomplice would also face the death
penalty, saying she will make an announcement after the grand jury hears
the murder case.

She consulted with Harris County District Attorney Pat Lycos about where
the trial would be held because the body was found in Houston, but Yenni
said the case would be tried in Angleton since De Jesus was kidnapped at
gunpoint in Brazoria County.

Texas law allows only the elected district attorney to decide whether the
death penalty is sought when a person is indicted for capital murder.

Yenni met Friday afternoon with the victims sister and other De Jesus
family members to inform them of her decision. The family declined comment
when contacted at their home.

(source: click2Houston)


Jury finds Texas man guilty in parents' death

A northeast Texas jury found a 22-year-old man guilty of capital murder
Friday in the deaths of his parents and sentenced him to life in prison.

The panel, which deliberated for five hours, found that 22-year-old
Brandon Woodruff killed Dennis and Norma Woodruff in their Royse City home
in October 2005. Since prosecutors did not seek the death penalty,
Woodruff received an automatic life sentence.

His sister, Charla Woodruff, read a statement in which she said she still
is dealing with the horror and pain of the slayings.

"Brandon, you made me plan a funeral. That thought still disgusts me,"
said the woman, now a detective with the sheriff's office in Miller
County, Ark.,

Adrienne McFarland, a special prosecutor from the Texas attorney general's
office, told the Greenville Herald-Banner she was pleased with the verdict
and declined further comment.

Woodruff told supporters he is innocent and will appeal.

McFarland said the defendant had reached limits on all his credit cards
and that his parents were struggling with heavy debt. Woodruff was also
about to drop out of freshman classes at Abilene Christian University,
McFarland said, and was planning to tell his parents he was gay.

She argued Woodruff killed his parents to gain an insurance settlement.

"I'm not sure we sat through the same trial," defense attorney Katherine
Ferguson said.

Ferguson said cell phone and toll road records showed that Woodruff did
not have time to commit the slayings. Ferguson also cited a dispute among
forensics experts over whether a dagger found more than 2 years after the
deaths could have been the murder weapon.


Condemned prisoner loses appeal

A Texas death row inmate who came within hours of execution last summer
has lost an appeal in a federal appeals court where his lawyers argued
he's too mentally ill to be put to death for taking part in a fatal
robbery more than a decade ago in the Texas Hill Country.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the appeal from Jeffery
Wood, 35, condemned for the January 1996 slaying Kriss Keeran at a
convenience store in Kerrville.

Wood was convicted of capital murder under the Texas law of parties, which
makes the participant in a capital murder equally culpable of the crime.
Evidence showed Wood waited in a car outside the convenience store while
his roommate, Daniel Reneau, fatally shot 31-year-old Keeran once in the
face with a .22-caliber pistol.

Both men then robbed the store, taking more than $11,000 in cash and

Reneau was executed in 2002.

Wood was scheduled to die last August but a federal judge delayed the
lethal injection so Wood could be tested to determine whether he's
mentally competent to understand why he should be executed. He does not
have an execution date now.

In the appeal to the New Orleans-based appeals court, Wood's lawyers
contended they needed a second expert, a neuropsychologist, to examine
Wood after he already had been examined by a forensic psychologist.

"Mr. Wood lacks a rational understanding of his death sentence and of the
reasons for his imminent execution," attorney Scott Sullivan said in his
motion filed earlier this week.

They also wanted the court to approve hiring of an additional investigator
and keep the expenses and results confidential.

Prosecutors argued Wood already had an expert "of his own choosing,"
hasn't shown why he needs a second and also has shown "only generic
reasons for confidentiality."

A federal district judge ruled earlier that relevant information about
Wood's mental condition shouldn't be concealed.

"At this stage of the proceedings, there is no need for 'trial by ambush'
or 'gamesmanship,'" the Texas Attorney General's Office argued in its
opposition to Wood's appeal.

The appeals court, in its ruling Friday, agreed, saying Wood's lawyers
gave no reasons for a need for confidentiality. They also pointed out the
lower court judge didn't bar them from asking again for the second
psychological expert, but that the public interest wouldn't be served by
stopping everything in the courts regarding Wood's case.

Last summer, Sullivan said in a motion he met with Wood and that the
prisoner told him he believed his trial judge was corrupt but would accept
a $100,000 bribe and then deport him to Norway where he could live with
his wife. Sullivan said Wood also believed the government will pay him
$50,000 a year once he's released and that he's willing to give that money
to the judge.

The U.S. Supreme Court has barred the execution of prisoners determined to
be mentally disabled, but that protection has not extended to those with
mental illness.

Wood was found by a jury to be mentally incompetent to stand trial. After
a brief stint at a state hospital, a second jury found him competent.

At his capital murder trial, he tried to fire his lawyers before the
penalty phase. The trial judge denied the request but Wood's lawyers
followed their client's wishes, called no witnesses and declined to
cross-examine prosecution witnesses.

Evidence showed Wood and Reneau planned the robbery for a couple of weeks
and unsuccessfully tried recruiting the victim, Keeran, whom they knew,
and another employee to stage a phony robbery at the Texaco gas station.

Wood's lawyers said his mental illness allowed him to be easily
manipulated by Reneau.

(source for both: Associated Press)