Texas Death Row: Where Innocence is Irrelevant On August 21, Texas will execute Jeff Wood for the murder of Kris Keeran, even though there is a consensus that Wood did not murder, intend to murder, or know that a murder was going to take place. Wood was sentenced to death under the Law of Parties, section 7.02 of the Texas Penal Code, which holds co-defendants criminally responsible for the same crime if they acted as conspirators. Put another way, the Law of Parties allows for guilt-by-association. In Wood’s case, he was forced to drive a getaway vehicle after the actual killer, Daniel Reneau, shot Keeran during a convenience store robbery in 1996. In fact, Wood was not even in the building when the killing occurred. Furthermore, Bill Bunker, the store’s assistant manager who helped plot and even encouraged the robbery, was never charged with any crime.
Reneau was executed in 2002, and Keeran’s father has asked that Wood’s sentence be commuted. This week, Jeff’s family and friends, activists, and media from around the world are calling on Governor Perry to spare his life. Perry set a precedent for this last summer when he commuted the sentence of Kenneth Foster, who received the death penalty under similar circumstances. If he is to be consistent, Perry must grant Wood clemency as well. He needs to show the world that he has a conscience, especially after what happened earlier this month, when he went ahead with the executions of two foreign nationals who had been denied consular assistance, a right enshrined in the 1963 Vienna Convention.
But even if Wood’s sentence is commuted, his example raises hard questions about the Law of Parties, indeed about capital punishment itself. The statute is clearly being used in an unjust and abusive manner when bit players pay the ultimate price. It is time to demand that our state’s legislators correct this monstrous injustice.
The examples of Kenneth Foster and Jeff Wood are not flukes in an otherwise fair system, though. Foster and Wood represent the sad tale of most death row inmates: indigence and poverty, inadequate representation, withheld testimony, forced confessions, and so on. Even if capital punishment were fair, its overall application reeks of bias and flaws, especially in Texas, which leads the nation in executions. Furthermore, the death penalty is not a deterrent to violent crime, and study after study has shown that it actually costs taxpayers more money than life in prison without possibility of parole, after court fees and prison time are factored in.
An anti-death penalty sentiment is gripping the nation. Currently, this is due mainly to the fact that more and more Americans realize there are serious problems when it comes to meting out the ultimate punishment. However, the problem ultimately rests in the very fact that states have been given the right to kill people, not in any particular flaws with the death penalty’s application.
The use of violence, force, or coercion by the state demands a high burden of proof. In this case, it falls on the state to show that the death penalty can be justified only in terms of what is necessary to guarantee the population’s safety or survival. The right to kill people, in other words, is such a powerful concession to the state that it cannot be justified intrinsically. As it happens, there are viable alternatives to the death penalty that also prevent murderers from being released into the general population: namely, life in prison without parole. There is no reason to execute people in the name of protecting others.
It is time that we enter the 21st century—nay, the 20th century—by abolishing capital punishment now and forever. Start by helping to save Jeff Wood this week, but do not let it end there.
DC Tedrow is a member of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty. For more information, please visit the Save Jeff Wood website.
Those Who Are About to Die Your Texas death machine gets rolling once again By Jordan Smith A Nation of Laws? Scheduled for Execution Aug. 5: José Medellín There is no doubt that the crime for which... more
Critics have argued that Texas' use of the law of parties unconstitutionally broadens the field of death-eligible defendants; the death penalty, they argue, should be reserved for the most culpable... more
Honduras seeks to block citizen's US execution The Associated Press Wednesday, August 6, 2008 TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras: The Honduran government says it is lobbying U.S. authorities to stop Thursday's... more
Court clears way for another immigrant's execution By MICHAEL GRACZYK – 2 hours ago HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — An illegal immigrant from Honduras who claimed his treaty rights were violated when he was ... more
UPDATE: Execution of Honduran allowed Thursday, August 7th, 2008 1:24 pm | Lyle Denniston | UPDATE 4:30 p.m. Without recorded dissent, the Supreme Court on Thursday afternoon refused to delay the... more
Texas executes Honduran immigrant after Supreme Court decides in its favor By MICHAEL GRACZYK | Associated Press Writer 7:11 PM CDT, August 7, 2008 HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) _ An illegal immigrant from... more
Fellow Abolitionists, Tonight, Texas again did the unthinkable---it ignored the international law that guarantees someone arrested in a foreign country the right to see a representative of their... more
Texas executions break international law By Gloria Rubac Houston Published Aug 14, 2008 11:10 PM In April, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Baze v. Rees that the three drugs used in lethal injections... more
Texas Executes a Mexican Citizen Despite a Breach of the Vienna Convention: A Decision that Undermines America's International Standing and Commitment to the Rule of Law By EDWARD LAZARUS Thursday,... more
Media Advisory For immediate release: July 29, 2008 Contacts: Terri Been B.S., M. Ed, Sister of Jeff Wood firstname.lastname@example.org 254-371-5650 Scott Cobb, President Texas Moratorium Network 512-689-1544... more
My husband, Jeff Wood, is on Texas Death Row. He is sentenced for a crime that happened back in 1996. He did NOT kill anyone though. He was actually outside of the place where it all happened. He was ... more
Texas v Jeffery Wood http://www.texasdefender.org/index.asp The Texas Defender Service, along with attorney Scott Sullivan, has filed a clemency petition with the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles... more
Jeff Wood was a pissant criminal boob, and the world is better off without him. If he had chosen to get a job instead of putting himself voluntarily in a criminal undertaking, he would never have... more
I am with you on this one! What I want to know is how come these people who fight against the death penalty are so naive to really believe stories of death row inmates? They did not get on death row... more
The cousin of Kris Keeran (the murder victim) wants to save the life of Jeff Wood: "My cousin was the person killed by Danny, not Jeff. I say this as a family member who realized long ago Jeff had no ... more
I am sorry for your loss Amanda. But I am a bit confused about this statement posted by Jeff's sister in an article: "At no point in time did Jeff ever plan to kill anybody. Jeff was threatened by... more
I cannot belive I have never seen this post before now. Kriss is also a 1st cousin of mine and I think they were both responsible. Jeff is just as guilty as Daniel because he assisted in the robbery. ... more
What is the Law of Parties? Penal Code: 1.02 Objectives of Code (1) to insure the public safety through: B. the rehabilitation of thise convicted of violations of this code; and C. such punishment as ... more
PARTIES AND THE US SUPREME COURT The US Supreme Court held that imposition of the death penalty on a person who aids and abets a felony in the course of which a murder is committed by others but who... more
Texas Man Who Didn't Kill to Will Be Executed Jeff Wood Didn't Kill Kris Keeran, but He Is Set to Be Executed for Keeran's Death By SCOTT MICHELS Aug. 8, 2008 — Texas is scheduled to put a man to... more
Wood seeks reprieve By Caleb Chapman The Daily Times Published August 9, 2008 Jeffery Lee Wood does not deserve to die. That’s the plea made in an application to the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole ... more
Friends-- Here is the letter than Ramsey promised me he would write for Jeff. I think it is very good, very persuasive. I had to get a box of Kleenex when I read it because Ramsey mentions the case... more
RAMSEY CLARK LAWRENCE W. SCHILLING 37 WEST 12TH STREET NEW YORK, N.Y. 10011 212-989-6613 212-979-1583 FAX August 12, 2008 The Honorable Rick Perry Governor, State of Texas State Capitol, Room 2S.I... more
Wednesday, August 13, 2008 Mike Farrell Writes Letter Asking for Clemency for Jeff Wood From: Mike Farrell August 11, 2008 Ms. Rissie Owens, Chair Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles 8610 Shoal Creek... more
Should murder accomplices face execution? By John Gramlich, Stateline.org Staff Writer An execution last month in Mississippi and another scheduled for this month in Texas have reignited a debate... more
Defense Lawyers Try to Halt Execution By Jordan Smith Since Texas reinstated the death penalty in 1976, only six people have been executed for a murder in which they did not directly participate,... more
Death and Texas Governor Rick Perry and his state's flawed judicial system are now executing convicts for crimes they did not Maura Kelly guardian.co.uk, Thursday August 14 2008 18:30 BST Texans - or ... more
Sanders: Another execution is scheduled under flawed law-of-parties provision By BOB RAY SANDERS email@example.com August 17, 2008 Make a note of this name: Jeffery Lee Wood. And this date:... more
Abolition Movement Members and Friends, I just got a call from Kristin Wood and she said to let you know that the meeting with the chair of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, Rissie Owens, went... more
Texas Death Row: Where Innocence is Irrelevant Britta,Tue Aug 19 5:43am
Editor's note: Please contact Gov. Perry and asked him to grant clemency for Jeff Wood ! Mailing Address Office of the Governor P.O. Box 12428 Austin, Texas 78711-2428 Delivery Address Office of the... more
Parole board rejects clemency for non-triggerman 05:34 PM CDT on Tuesday, August 19, 2008 Associated Press HUNTSVILLE, Texas - The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles on Tuesday rejected a clemency... more
Stop the Execution: Jeff Wood Faces Death Tomorrow for a Murder He Didn't Commit By Liliana Segura, AlterNet Posted on August 20, 2008, Printed on August 20, 2008 http://www.alternet.org/story/95690/ ... more
IN THE COURT OF CRIMINAL APPEALS OF TEXAS NO. AP-75,970 JEFFERY LEE WOOD, Appellant v. THE STATE OF TEXAS ON MOTION FOR APPOINTMENT OF COUNSEL AND REQUEST FOR PREPAYMENT OF FUNDS TO RETAIN MENTAL... more
Thursday, Aug 21, 2008 Posted on Thu, Aug. 21, 2008 Federal judge delays execution of condemned inmate By JUAN A. LOZANO Associated Press Writer A federal judge on Thursday delayed the execution of a ... more
Federal Judge, Chastising the Texas Courts, Orders a Stay of Execution By JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr. HOUSTON — With only hours until his scheduled execution, a man won a stay Thursday when a federal judge ... more
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 ... more