As death sentences and executions dwindle around the country and most states are abandoning the death penalty, a few states are determined to keep executions rolling. Top of the list is Texas, the state that’s now gearing up to execute a man who never killed anyone.
Jeffrey Wood is scheduled for execution on August 24th, but he didn’t commit murder. He was waiting in a car while Daniel Reneau committed a robbery and, ultimately, killed Kriss Keeran. Reneau was executed in 2002, but according to the “law of parties,” Wood is considered equally culpable simply for sitting in the car outside. The law of parties has only been invoked for execution ten times, and five of those were in Texas.
The story of Jeffrey Wood’s death sentence doesn’t stop there. Texas has gone to extraordinary lengths to execute Wood.
For one thing, Wood has a history of emotional and intellectual impairments throughout his life, with a variety of diagnoses beginning at age 12. Before trial he was originally found incompetent to stand trial at all, but after just two weeks of observation and no psychiatric treatment, he was deemed competent.
A federal judge reviewing the case in 2005 found that Wood had prevented his attorneys from putting on a defense at his sentencing hearing with “suicidal directives.” His attorneys followed those directives resulting in “a punishment phase that lacked even the most rudimentary aspects of a truly adversarial proceeding”.
But perhaps one of the most disturbing aspects of the case is the testimony of Dr. James Grigson, a discredited psychiatrist who was known for testifying at capital trials that he was “certain” that a defendant posed a future danger. That kind of testimony had already caused the American Psychiatric Association to throw Dr. Grigson out by 1998, when he was still allowed to testify that Wood “certainly” posed a future danger. The jury didn’t even know about Dr. Grigson’s expulsion.
Jeffrey Wood’s case illustrates exactly why Texas continues to lead the nation in executions even as most states abandon the penalty altogether. Authorities in the state will apparently go to any lengths to execute just about anyone – even people with intellectual impairments, with flagrantly improper testimony, who haven’t even killed someone.
Governor Rick Scott and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles need to hear from activists around the country standing up for Jeffrey Wood. They need to hear that all around the United States, the people of this country are appalled at this execution – and every execution. Click here to learn you how you can take action to save Mr. Wood’s life. Texas must spare the life of Jeffrey Wood and abolish the death penalty forever.