We have seven days to save the life of a man who did not kill anyone. Jeff Wood is scheduled for execution in Texas on August 21, despite the fact that he did not kill anyone. If you have not yet written Governor Perry click here to contact Governor Perry and the Board of Pardons and Paroles.
If you have already written them, we need you to pick up the phone and leave the governor a message. Call Governor Perry at (512) 463-2000.
This Saturday, August 16, there will be a rally for Jeff Wood in Austin at noon. The rally is at 11th and Congress Avenue on the sidewalk in front of the Texas Capitol. Please join us at the rally and show your support for stopping this execution.
On Friday, we are going to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles with members of Jeff's family to turn in the first online petition that had almost 2,500 signers. If you did not sign the first one, we have created a new one for you to sign: Click here to sign the petition for Jeff Wood. You don't need to sign again if you signed the first one.
Please forward this email to your friends and ask them to help us Save Jeff Wood!
Jordan Smith of the Austin Chronicle has a new article on the case of Jeff Wood. From "Defense Lawyers Try to Halt Execution".
by Jordan Smith
Wood was sentenced to die for the 1996 murder of his friend Kris Keeran, during a botched robbery of a Kerrville Texaco station. Wood did not fire the gun that killed Keeran and wasn't inside the gas station when another friend, Danny Reneau, fired the fatal shot into Keeran's head. (Reneau was executed in 2002.) Nonetheless, according to the state, Wood is responsible for Keeran's death and should be executed. Wood was convicted under the state's law of parties, a conspirator liability statute that posits that if two or more people plan to commit one crime but another crime occurs, each person is equally responsible for that crime, if it was foreseeable. The state argues that Wood hatched with Reneau the plan to rob the Texaco, where their friend Keeran worked, on Jan. 2, when a large amount of cash would still be on hand because of holiday bank closures. That Wood was neither in the store when the killing began nor fired the fatal shot did not mean he was not equally liable for Keeran's murder, the prosecution argued.
But Wood's lawyers, Scott Sullivan and Jared Tyler (with the Texas Defender Service), argue that Wood did not plan to rob the store and, in fact, had no idea Reneau planned to do so - nor, they say, did Wood know Reneau was carrying a gun. Indeed, it isn't clear that Wood had any idea what Reneau would do, although it does appear Wood was privy to a plan hatched by Reneau and Texaco store manager Bill Bunker to lift the post-holiday cash. Wood's sister, Terri Been, says that Keeran initially was in on the plan, but ultimately, she says, Wood and Keeran pulled out, followed by Bunker. As far as Wood knew, she says, the previous talk of a robbery was moot. "Mr. Wood undeniably shares responsibility for what happened to Mr. Keeran, and should be held accountable for his reckless acts, but no man ever deserves to die for another man's acts," Wood's attorneys wrote in his petition to the board, filed last week.
At Reneau's trial, the state argued that he was responsible for Keeran's murder and portrayed Wood as little more than a sap, steamrolled by the villainous Reneau. But at Wood's trial, prosecutors reversed their strategy, arguing that Wood deserved to die because he'd gotten Reneau to "do his dirty work." But the idea of Wood as "mastermind" baffles attorney Sullivan, who has represented Wood since 1998. "I've watched Jeff for ... nine years," he says. "This guy, his mental capacities are not sufficient to make him a mastermind." Wood was diagnosed with learning disabilities as a child, and school officials consistently categorized him as emotionally stunted. He always sought approval for his actions and, adds his family, was easily influenced by others. He was initially found incompetent to stand trial because he was incapable of helping his defenders. At the punishment phase of his trial, Wood tried to fire his attorneys, a request denied by the judge. Nonetheless, his trial attorneys followed Wood's orders: Not only did they withhold from the jury evidence of his troubled youth, but they also failed to cross-examine any state witnesses, including the wildly speculative testimony of Dr. James Grigson - derisively known by many, including colleagues in the psychiatric community, as "Dr. Death" for predictably offering testimony in capital cases that a defendant would pose a danger to society, one of the questions a jury must decide in order to impose a death sentence.
In Wood's case, Grigson testified the defendant would pose a continuing threat to society if sentenced to anything other than death. That was clear to him, he said, because Wood was a manipulative person who failed to wear a disguise during the Texaco robbery. "You have an individual that is a user or manipulator of other people, and I'm thinking particularly in terms of where you're planning the robbery for two weeks," he testified, responding to a "hypothetical" robbery-murder presented by prosecutors that mirrored closely most of the facts of the Keeran killing. "Surely, you would have thought in terms of using a mask or a disguise where you wouldn't have to kill somebody, so this was a deliberate and intentional act in terms of the clerk that was going to be killed." (Wood's attorneys assert in the clemency petition that Grigson should not have been allowed to testify, in part because of his 1995 ouster from the American Psychiatric Association and Texas Society of Psychiatric Physicians for "flagrant ethical violations" - a fact the jury did not know because neither of Wood's attorneys conducted any cross-examination.)
Sullivan and Tyler argue now that executing Wood for a murder he did not commit would undermine Texas' entire death penalty scheme. The U.S. Supreme Court, they note, has said, "When the law punishes by death, it risks its own sudden descent into brutality, transgressing the constitutional commitment to decency and restraint." If Wood is executed, they write, "that risk will have come to fruition, and we all will have taken a descent into brutality unworthy of the State of Texas."
The Board of Pardons and Paroles can vote either to recommend or deny clemency for Wood. If they vote to commute Wood's sentence to life in prison, Gov. Rick Perry has the power to accept or deny the recommendation.
What: "Save Jeff Wood" rally to stop the execution and urge clemency for Jeff Wood
Where: In front of The Capitol at 11th and Congress, Austin, Texas
When: Noon on Saturday August 16
Speakers Include: Terri Been, sister of Jeff Wood; Kristin Wood, wife of Jeff Wood; Danny Wood, father of Jeff Wood; Capital X with his new song for Jeff Wood; plus representatives of Texas Moratorium Network, Texas Students Against the Death Penalty, Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement, Campaign to End the Death Penalty and others.
Last summer, Governor Perry commuted the death sentence of Kenneth Foster only hours before he was scheduled for execution. The Board of Pardons and Paroles had voted the day before to recommend clemency for Foster, who had been convicted under the "Law of Parties" even though he did not kill anyone. Many newspapers wrote editorials urging Perry to commute Foster's death sentence.
Charles Keeran, the father of Kris Keeran (the murder victim), has said that he does not want Wood executed and wants his sentence commuted to life in prison.
"Mr. Wood undeniably shares responsibility for what happened to Mr. Keeran, and should be held accountable for his reckless acts, but no man ever deserves to die for another man's acts," Wood's attorneys wrote in his petition to the Board of Pardons and Paroles. The 22-page petition can be read online by clicking here.
Everyone - including law enforcement and prosecutors alike - agree that Jeffrey Wood did not kill anyone during the January 2, 1996 incident for which he was sentenced to death. The undisputed facts are that Kris Keeran was shot and killed by Daniel Reneau. During the episode, Jeffery Wood did not and could not have known that Reneau would murder Keeran. In fact, Wood was not even inside the store at the time of the murder.
Daniel Reneau was convicted of the murder of Kris Keeran and Reneau was executed on June 13, 2002. When the robbery took place on the morning of January 2, 1996, Wood was under the impression that Reneau was going in to the store to get "road drinks and munchies." Although it is true that Wood and Reneau had talked about robbing the store at the behest of the manager of the store, Wood backed out of the idea. The robbery was supposed to take place on the 1st, but after Wood backed out, Reneau decided to go through with the robbery on the 2nd on his own initiative and made the decision to kill Kris Keeran on his own. Wood had no idea that a murder or a even a robbery was going to take place on the morning of the 2nd. Before Reneau and Wood left the house on the morning of the 2nd, Wood told Daniel Reneau to put the gun away, which he did in front of Wood, but Reneau pulled the gun out again when Wood went to the restroom.
At approximately 6:00 a.m. on Jan. 2, 1996, while Jeff Wood waited outside, Daniel Reneau entered the gas station with a gun and pointed it at Kris Keeran, the clerk standing behind the counter. Reneau ordered him to a back room. When he did not move quickly enough, Reneau fired one shot with a 22 caliber handgun that struck Keeran between the eyes. Death was almost instantaneous. Proceeding with the robbery, Reneau went into the back office and took a safe. After hearing the shot, Wood got out of the car to see what was going on. He walked by the door and looked through the glass. Then he went inside, looked over the counter and ran to the back, where Reneau was. Wood was then ordered by Reneau at gunpoint to get the surveillance video and to drive the getaway car. Earlier, Reneau had threatened to kill Wood's young daughter if anyone ever "ratted" on Reneau, so with a gun pointed at him and a man already having been shot, Wood complied with Reneau's orders.
* Wood suffers from severe mental, emotional and learning disabilities. He was abused and beaten severely and repeatedly as a child. He is submissive to more dominant personalities because of the abuse during his childhood.
* At arrest Wood was forced into interrogation by the police and did not have council present. Wood was kept awake the entire time. He was refused sleep. He eventually confessed saying it was a planned robbery. He later revoked this statement. Wood was found not mentally fit to stand trial. He was admitted into a mental hospital and a couple of weeks later was found 'trial ready'.
* At trial, Wood was not satisfied with his representation. Wood asked to represent himself, but wasn't allowed to do so. The judge found him not capable of representing himself. The judge however, did not argue when Wood, in his diminished mental capacity, ordered his attorneys not to do anything during the punishment phase of his trial. The result was that Jeff had no witnesses during the punishment phase of his trial on his behalf. If his lawyers had been able to call witnesses during the penalty phase, the jury would have heard about Wood's mental problems and his abusive childhood and may not have sentenced him to death.
* The victim's father called the Governor of Texas on the day of Daniel Reneau's execution and urged the governor not to execute the person who actually killed his son, Daniel Reneau.
Visit the Save Jeff Wood website at www.savejeffwood.com for more information and to sign the petition for Jeff Wood.
All of this activity has expenses, so please help us by making a donation.
You can send a check made out to Texas Moratorium Network to:
3616 Far West Blvd, Suite 117-251
Austin, Texas 78731
Texas House of Representatives
August 12, 2008
Ms. Rissie Owens
Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles
Members of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles
Executive Clemency Section
8610 Shoal Creek Boulevard
Austin, Texas 78757
Dear Chairwoman Owens and Board Members:
We are writing to urge the Board to recommend commuting Jeffrey Wood's death sentence to a life sentence. Further, we hope that Governor Peny would act favorably on such a recommendation. As we are certain you are aware, Mr. Wood is set to be executed on August 21,2008.
Mr. Wood was convicted of capital murder under the Texas Law of Parties. It appears evident that he neither killed, nor anticipated that Daniel Earl Reneau would kill, Kris Keeran. He did not anticipate that a murder would occur and was not in the store when the murder took place. The shooter, Danny Reneau, has already been executed for this crime. When asked on death row to identify the shooter, Reneau had a oneword reply, "Me."
This case is similar to the case of Kenneth Foster, whose death sentence under the Law of Parties was commuted by Govemor Perry in 2007.
While Jeffrey Wood deserves to be imprisoned for his participation in the robbery, he should not be executed. We find the facts of his case, as well as the application of the Law of Parties, to be particularly bothersome.
The death penalty is supposed to be reserved for the worst of the worst. It seems clear to us that Jeffrey Wood is not a man for whom the death penalty should be applied. We respectfully request that clemency be granted.
Thank you very much for your consideration.
Rep. Elliott Naishtat
Rep. Donna Howard
Rep. Lon Burnam
Ruth Jones McClendon
Rep. Alma Allen
Rep. Eddie Rodriguez
Rep. Sylvester Tumer
Rep. Harold Dutton
Rep. Jessica Farrar
Rep. Mark Strama
cc: The Honorable Rick Perry Governor of Texas State Capitol 2S.1
Should murder accomplices face execution? By John Gramlich, Stateline.org Staff Writer
In Texas, lawyers are frantically trying to persuade the state Board of Pardons and Paroles and Gov. Rick Perry (R) to spare Wood, who had no prior criminal record. His legal team contends that he has "emotional and psychological impairments" that prevented him from receiving a fair sentence, noting that he did not challenge the death penalty during the punishment phase of his trial.
Wood's lawyers also are comparing his case to that of Kenneth Foster, another Texas murder accomplice who was scheduled to be executed last year. In that case, Perry took the highly unusual step of commuting Foster's sentence to life without parole, expressing concern that Foster had been tried simultaneously with his co-defendant, who actually committed the murder.
Scott Cobb, director of the anti-death penalty Texas Moratorium Network and an organizer of public rallies in support of Wood and against the state's felony murder rule, said he hopes authorities will spare the inmate. He said he is encouraged because Perry has proven to be "in tune with public opinion, and he's aware that public opinion doesn't support killing someone who has such a diminished role as an accomplice."Read the Complete Stateline Article
Death and Texas
Governor Rick Perry and his state's flawed judicial system are now executing convicts for crimes they did not commit.
Despite the fact that the death penalty is supposedly reserved for only the most heinous crimes, Wood is sentenced to death for a murder that prosecutors have never accused him of committing - one that took place when he wasn't even in the same building. Rather, he was outside in a gas station parking lot, waiting in a pick-up truck for his buddy, Daniel Reneau, to come out of a road-side store with drinks and snacks. Wood contends that he didn't know Reneau was planning to rob the store - a frequent hang-out spot for the two of them - and that he also had no idea Reneau was going to murder the store clerk, Kris Keeran, a friend of both men.Read the entire Guardian Article
On Saturday, about 20 people gathered in front of the Alamo to rally for Wood's life, begging Perry for help.
Last August, Perry commuted a death sentence to life in prison for inmate Kenneth Foster Jr., also convicted under the law of parties statute.
"Jeff's case is so much like Kenneth's case; it is like a mirror image," Lawrence Foster, grandfather of Kenneth Foster Jr., wrote in a statement read at the rally. "I remember thinking last summer that Texas had already executed the killer and yet they wanted Kenneth. It is the same for Jeff."
The cases are so similar that Norway native Kristin Wood, 29, has found comfort and support from the Foster camp, including from Foster's wife, Tasha, a 24-year-old Netherlands citizen.
Wood's relatives staged the rally with the Texas Moratorium Network, which wants a two-year moratorium on all death penalty cases. A second rally for Wood is planned for Aug. 16 in Austin.
Meanwhile, younger relatives have joined a group called Kids Against the Death Penalty.
"I'm here because Jeff Wood is innocent and on death row for a murder that he didn't commit," said Gavin Been, 11, Wood's nephew.
According to the Texas Moratorium Network, attorney Jared Tyler with the Texas Defender Service is preparing a clemency package to submit on Wood's behalf.
The victim's father, Charles Keeran, also would like to see Wood live.
"The death penalty, to me, is the easy way out," he said. "If you had to be down there and get up every morning, as hot and humid as it is, knowing that you are going to spend the rest of your life locked up under those conditions, that's punishment. That's what I think my son would want for him."
Mike Farrell, the actor and human rights activist has also written. His letter is here.
Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark has also written a letter, which you can read here.
If you have a webcam, you can also upload your own video to YouTube urging the Governor and Board to grant Jeff clemency.Visit Our Website