Friday, August 22, 2008

Judge calls system "insane"

Taken from a press release of the Texas Defender Service



Austin -- Today, the Federal District Court granted a stay of execution in the case of Jeff Wood to allow the court to consider compelling evidence that Jeff Wood is too mentally ill to be executed. The Court held that the Texas state courts have not carefully reviewed the question of Wood's competence and that a stay of execution is necessary to ensure that Wood's mental health issues are fully presented and considered by the courts. [...]

The Federal District Court authorized an attorney and the assistance of mental health experts, pointing out that the Texas state courts had not complied with the basic due process that the United States Supreme Court required in another Texas case - that of Scott Panetti, a mentally ill death row inmate with a 20 year history of schizophrenia, who was permitted to represent himself at trial dressed in a purple cowboy costume.

In its 20-page order, the Court stated, "With all due respect, a system that requires an insane person to first make "a substantial showing" of his own lack of mental capacity without the assistance of counsel or a mental health expert, in order to obtain such assistance is, by definition, an insane system."

Prosecutors have indicated they will not appeal today's decision. Yesterday, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles denied the application for clemency on a vote of 7-0 despite the mental health evidence and fact that it is undisputed that Jeff Wood did not kill the victim in this case, but rather was outside the building in a car at the time of the murder. The actual killer, Daniel Reneau, was already executed by the State of Texas in 2002. [...]

A neuropsychologist who evaluated Wood's competence to stand trial said that Mr. Wood "ha[d] a delusional system, an inability to grasp the reality surrounding the issues specific to this case, his role in it, in the crime, as well as other things that present a direct threat to his own well-being, his own sense of self."


mikeb302000 said...

I sometimes write about the death penalty on my blog. Most of the commenters are rabid pro death penalty folks. Why is that?

Connie L. Nash said...

I don't know, Mike. It's possible that one of the stategies of "rabid pro DP folks" (ising your term) is that they are organized & one of their strategies appears to be to target the abolition folk as well as other groups?

Below, keep watching for updates on the recent near execution of Jeff Wood and related in this Comments Section....Thanks for tuning in...


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 network.

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

(source: Daily Texan)


Stay Doesn’t 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 here…I don't know when…in 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 executed.

(source: KLBJ Radio)