death penalty news—-TEXAS

Aug. 19

TEXAS—-impending execution

Convicted serial killer David Leonard Wood appeals on mental disability

Convicted serial killer David Leonard Wood filed a last-minute appeal
arguing that he is mentally ill and should not be put to death Thursday.

Less than two hours before the deadline for final appeals, lawyers for
Wood on Tuesday filed a motion for a stay of execution and a writ of
habeas corpus.

Lawyers Matthew L. Byrne and Gregory E. Wiercioch argued that Wood should
not be executed because he is mentally retarded. They asked for a hearing
to present evidence that he is mentally impaired.

Tuesday's motion for the stay of execution included statements from his
father, Leo Wood, his sisters Deborah Galvan and Denise Coreas, and his
1992 defense lawyer Dolph Quijano, along with copies of David Wood's
school records.

"His obtained IQ scores place him at the high end of the range of mild
mental retardation," said Dale T. Johnson, a professor of psychiatry at
Texas Texas University Health Sciences Center-El Paso.

According to a 1980 evaluation, Wood had a verbal IQ of 67, a performance
IQ of 64, and full-scale IQ of 64.

School records show that Wood received low grades, including F's and D's,
and flunked several courses. He was in special education classes, and
frequently got in trouble for misbehaving.

"When David was 12 or 13, he began seeing … the same psychiatrist his
mother was seeing," said Leo Wood, who previously testified that David
Wood's mother was mentally ill and took prescription drugs while she was
pregnant with him.

The appeal cited the 2002 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Atkins v. Virginia
that sentencing mentally retarded people to death is unconstitutional
because it is cruel and unusual punishment.

"Judges have until the execution date to rule on the appeal," said Abel
Acosta, spokesman for the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals in Austin.

Barring any last-minute stays, Wood's execution by lethal injection will
go on as scheduled Thursday in Huntsville, Texas.

In 1992, a jury convicted Wood of murdering 6 young women in 1987 and
burying their bodies in the Northeast El Paso desert. He was found guilty
of killing Ivy Susanna Williams, Desiree Wheatley, Karen Baker, Angelica
Frausto, Rosa Maria Casio and Dawn Marie Smith.

After the trial in Dallas, the court sentenced him to death.

Wood, now 52, has denied killing the women, and since his incarceration he
has filed several unsuccessful appeals.

The Texas Attorney General's Office said in a statement posted on the
Internet Aug. 13 that 5 of the victims were seen the day they disappeared
getting into vehicles that matched the ones owned by Wood.

(source: El Paso Times)


Texas judge: Lawyers had time for death-row appeal

A Texas judge who closed her court before a death row inmate's last-minute
appeal was ready says the man's lawyers had time that day to act.

Judge Sharon Keller, who is on trial for misconduct, is back on the
witness stand.

Keller said Wednesday that it's legitimate to ask why lawyers for
convicted killer Michael Wayne Richard (ruh-SHARD') "had from 9:30 in the
morning until 8:30 at night and did nothing."

She refused to keep the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals open past 5 p.m.,
when Richard's lawyers asked for more time to file their rushed appeal. He
was executed hours later.

Keller's lawyers have said that Richard's lawyers could have handed an
appeal directly to a judge, and that another judge was still on duty that

(source: Associated Press)


Killer put to death after judge shut doors 'at 5'

An inmate on death row who tried to file a last-minute appeal against his
execution in Texas was told: "We close at 5."

Too late to plead, Michael Wayne Richard was put to death by lethal
injection. Now the judge who refused to take his appeal is on trial for
judicial misconduct.

Judge Sharon Keller, dubbed "Sharon Killer" for her tough line on crime,
could be removed as presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal

The case has become a focus for criticism of the death penalty in America.

Judge Keller left work early on September 25, 2007 to meet a repair worker
at her home. At about 4.45pm she received a phone call from court to ask
if the clerk's office could stay open late. She said no.

Rindy Fox, a legal secretary for the Texas Defender Service, representing
Richard, testified that she had 3 telephone conversations with the court's
deputy clerk, Abel Acosta.

At 4.40, Ms Fox called to say that the defence lawyers were having
computer problems and asked for more time to file the appeal. Mr Acosta
said that he would check.

8 minutes later he called Ms Fox and said "something to the effect that I
was told to tell you that we close at 5".

Ms Fox protested. Mr Acosta said that he would call her back if there was
any change in the decision to close the court, but never did.


At 5.56pm, Ms Fox called the court to say that the 31-page appeal was
printed and ready to lodge with the court.

"I said, 'Abel I got it ready to file, I'm coming down'. He said, 'Don't
bother, we're closed'," Ms Fox testified.

Richard, who was convicted of the rape and murder in 1986 of a nurse and
mother of seven in Houston, was executed at 8.23pm.

He was the 405th prisoner put to death in Texas, America's busiest
death-penalty state, since 1982.

The defence team had sought to file the appeal in response to a decision
by the US Supreme Court that morning to review execution by a lethal
injection of a 3-drug cocktail to determine whether it violated the
constitutional ban on "cruel and unusual punishment".

The review put executions on hold across America for more than 6 months
before the technique was upheld.

Judge Keller (56), a Republican appointee who has served at the court
since 1994, says that she was never given a reason for the request to keep
the court open.

(source: The Independent)