Texas Delays Execution Of Jeff Wood, Who Was Waiting In The Truck When Murder Occurred

The state of Texas has delayed the execution of Jeffery Wood, who had been scheduled for final punishment on Wednesday, even though he was not the man who pulled the trigger during a 1996 robbery in which a Texas convenience store worker was killed. By a vote of 7-2, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals delayed the execution by lethal injection of the 43-year-old man.

The decision by the Texas appeals court to delay the execution was released in a two-page opinion, in which Wood’s sentence of execution by lethal injection was described as based on the lies and sketchy science of now-discredited psychiatrist Dr. James Grigson, who, according to WFAA, is also known by the moniker “Dr. Death” because of how often he testifies in support of execution in capital murder cases. As reported by the Washington Post, the testimony involved an opinion by Grigson that Wood was a danger to public safety. In Texas, a person can only be sentenced to be executed if the jury unanimously agrees that the convicted person is a threat to society.

Texas Jeff Wood's Execution Delayed
Jeffery Wood in undated mugshot [ Image by Texas Department of Criminal Justice via AP]

Troubling to many is the fact that Wood had once been found mentally incompetent to stand trial — so troubling, in fact, that his first execution date in 2008 was delayed by a federal judge. The delay was implemented in order to have Wood’s mental capacity tested to see if he even understood the reason why he would be executed. The tests resulted in Wood being declared competent.

Jared Tyler, attorney for Wood, asked the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to delay the execution in July. He said today “the court did the right thing” by postponing the execution by lethal injection and sending Wood’s case back to the Kerrville, Kerr County, district court of Texas for further review.

The appeal of Wood’s sentence of execution claimed Grigson misled the jury in the case by not telling them he had been kicked out of the American Psychiatric Association in 1995. Grigson was discredited after an investigation conducted by the association’s board revealed that he had violated their practice with his method of predicting an accused capital murderer’s level of threat to society. WFAA cites from the appeal that three of the jurors who found Wood guilty of capital murder and, therefore, eligible for execution would have disregarded the testimony of the doctor had they known of his ouster.

Wood was given the sentence of execution by lethal injection after being convicted of capital murder. He was not inside of the convenience store at the time that 31-year-old Kriss Keeran was shot by Wood’s friend, Daniel Reneau, while robbing the store. Wood was, in fact, waiting in the truck when Reneau shot the worker in the face. Due to what is called a law of parties under Texas felony murder law, every person who is involved in a capital murder is equally guilty, regardless of whether they were involved in the killing itself, or even knew the killing was going to take place. Under that mandate, Wood was sentenced to execution by lethal injection. The actual shooter, Reneau, was executed in 2002.

In a statement on Friday after the Texas court delayed the execution, Tyler said,

“Justice is not served by executing Mr. Wood, who was outside the building when it happened and who had no criminal history. Three former jurors have said they feel the government’s presentation to them of a discredited psychiatrist who predicted with certainty, and without evaluating Mr. Wood, that Mr. Wood would be criminally violent in the future was unfair…. The jurors no longer support a death sentence.”

Questions regarding the mental competence of the condemned man, as well as the trial in which he was sentenced to be executed, have swirled around the case on a national level. Republicans, normally in favor of capital punishment, have also spoken out against the sentence.

Prior to the court’s ruling to delay Wood’s death by lethal injection on Friday, Texas Republican and state Representative Jeff Leach said he was in the process of collecting signatures from both Democrats and Republicans on a request to commute Wood’s sentence of execution to a life sentence to be sent to the Texas Board of Pardon and Paroles this weekend. The board had already received a similar request by a Republican legislator.

Although Leach is still in favor of capital punishment, according to the Washington Post, and the Texas Legislature, controlled by Republicans, has historically quashed all efforts by Democrats to abolish the death penalty, he believes Wood does not deserve to be executed. Wood may still be executed for a murder in which he was sitting in a truck outside of the scene, but for now Texas has delayed the imposition of their final judgment.

[Image via Shutterstock]