Thursday, August 21, 2008

Federal judge delays Jeff Wood execution

Greg Moses at the Texas Civil Rights Review and the website are reporting that a federal judge has issued a stay in the controversial Jeff Wood capital murder case. Wood was scheduled to be executed tonight.

UPDATE: CBS News has an initial report declaring that the delay was "so Wood's attorneys could hire a mental health expert to pursue their arguments that he is incompetent to be executed," an issue that nearly kept him from being prosecuted in the first place. According to the Houston Chronicle:
Wood initially was found by a jury to be mentally incompetent to stand trial. After a brief stint at a state hospital, a second jury found him competent. After he was found guilty, he tried to fire his lawyers before the penalty phase. The trial judge denied the request but Wood's lawyers followed their client's wishes and called no witnesses on his behalf and declined to cross-examine prosecution witnesses.
Doesn't sound like he allowed his attorneys to put on much of a defense, does it? Whether it's evidence of mental illness, it's certainly not a rational act to restrict one's defense in a capital murder trial, particularly when, as in Wood's instance, he wasn't actually the trigger man; he'd helped plan the robbery but was sitting outside in the getaway vehicle when the murder occurred.

I've long ago given up predicting the outcome of capital appeals in Texas, so who knows how this case will turn out. But it's clear federal courts still don't have confidence that Texas is responsibly handling its death penalty cases, a fact which contributes to the extensive delays in carrying out executions.

MORE: See additional coverage from the Stand Down blog, and here's a statement issued by 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. ...

"We applaud the Federal District Court for upholding Jeff Wood's rudimentary due process right to have his competency evaluated," said Andrea Keilen, executive director of Texas Defender Service, who, along with attorney Scott Sullivan, are representing Mr. Wood.

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 thatrequires 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.
AND MORE: See Judge Orlando Garcia's 20-page order (pdf). Judge Garcia found that although "evidence of petitioner's alleged incompetence now before this Court is far from compelling,"
Petitioner's motion presents non-frivolous arguments suggesting petitioner currently lacks a rational understanding of the connection between his role in the offense and the punishment imposed upon him.
Another money quote:
The initial constitutional deficiency with what transpired during petitioner's latest state habeas corpus proceeding is that petitioner was afforded neither court-appointed counsel nor expert assistance to challenge his own competence. Instead, the State of Texas insisted an arguably insane death row inmate proceeding without the assistance of court-appointed counsel was required to satisfy the threshold requirement of Article 46.05 ... [which involves] arcane pleadings so intellectually challenging they test the skill of even the most seasoned attorney.
Finally, one of the flaws in Texas statutes and their interpretation that created these constitutional defects is an issue that SCOTUS attempted to rectify in a recent bench slap against the 5th Circuit and the Texas CCA:
the Texas statutory definition of "incompetent to be executed" apparently applied by the state trial court during petitioner's most recent state habeas corpus proceeding suffers from the exact same constitutional defect identified by the Supreme Court when it struck down as too narrow two decades of Fifth Circuit precedent construing the Supreme Court's holding in Ford.
See the full opinion. (pdf)


Gritsforbreakfast said...

I just deleted the first comment here because the idiot (as always, anonymously) felt it necessary to use derogatory slurs (about the merits of killing "'tards") while offering no argument or substance.

I see no reason every mention of the death penalty must launch a round of shrill anonymous name calling. I've tolerated such behavior in the past, often against my better judgment. I'm tired of it now. Stop. If you've nothing to contribute on the topic of capital punishment but name calling or snark, especially if you don't have the cojones to use your own name, don't comment here.

Thx. The Management.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with executing the mentally ill, generally. But if his particular disorder isn't one that prevents him from knowing right from wrong, then he isn't "mentally ill enough" to get a commute.

The state does, however, have to respect his due process rights, and it appears that they have more fundamental issues with respect to competency hearings, generally, that this civil lawyer won't pretend to know much about.

Play by the rules Texas. You'll still get to kill enough people even then.

Anonymous said...

How is it that the man can barely be tried due to mental issues, even if he was miraculously 'cured', but yet he is quite capable of being executed even though he was deemed at best to be boarder line?

The State would have you believe that he is playing a trick on the system to spare his life, however how is life in prison a lessor penalty? Granted he did a heinous act, however if he were mentally unstable how did he become to such a terrible place?

Anonymous said...

I am still concerned that a man who didn't kill anyone can be executed by the state.

jojobug said...

Grits... You are right! Cajones apparently aren't necessary when ANONs are blabbing BS. Jeff is my cousin, a sweet guy I've known all my life. What many people may not realize is that Jeff's conviction under the "Law of Parties" is dangerous for anyone living in the state of Texas. It allows the government to put to death TRULY innocent people. Jeff did not kill anyone, yet this state (where I've lived all my life and loved like a brother) has deemed it "JUST" to kill him. Any one of us could end up in Jeff's shoes if this law is allowed to remain on the books.

Anonymous said...

Hey guess what--there were/are a hell of a lot of mass murderers who didn't "pull the trigger," i.e. didn't personally do the killing but ordered others to do it or took actions to make sure it happened. The law of parties is not some novel concept, even in a capital murder scenario, nor is it some quaint Texas statute. Here's a good example--Bin Laden is a "man who didn't kill anyone" but who damn sure deserves the needle.

Anonymous said...

The wording of the Law of Parties should be amended to include "willfull knowledge that a person or persons may be physically harmed".

Even if you accept that to kill someone because they killed another person is justified, to kill someone because they did not kill another person, often didnt know the assailant carried a weapon, or was mentally unable to fully grasp the situation and therefore do something to stop it, cannot be acceptable. It brings the state to the level of the true killer: to kill for no good reason.

Anonymous said...

"The State would have you believe that he is playing a trick on the system to spare his life."

Now to be fair to Texas there was a recent case of a murder John Penry who's death penalty sentence was bounced 3 TIMES by the US Supreme Court because of his mental retardation. When Texas finally gave up and gave him "Life Without Parole" he acknowledged he was faking it and was actually not impaired. It is really sickening how many people were duped by this, even the MSM were referring to him as "Johnny" like he was some kind of seven year old child.

I'm not saying that Wood is faking but if you don't believe such things can be faked you are sorely mistaken.

Anonymous said...

Penry did what? Can you document your allegation that he admitted to faking it?

Anonymous said...


Deal keeps Penry imprisoned for life

Inmate who had death sentence overturned three times apologizes

Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle

LIVINGSTON — The long saga of convicted murderer Johnny Paul Penry, whose case helped push mental retardation into the national debate over capital punishment, ended Friday with a plea agreement to a life sentence.

Penry, one of Texas' best-known death row inmates, agreed to three life sentences and to a stipulation that he was not mentally retarded, in spite of what his lawyers have asserted for almost three decades. His death sentence had been overturned three times, most recently in 2005, because of problems in instructing the jury how to weigh the mitigating effect of his mental capacity.

Guilt was never an issue in his case. The 51-year-old admitted killing Pamela Moseley Carpenter in Livingston in October 1979. Penry forced his way into Carpenter's home, where he had delivered appliances weeks earlier, and stabbed her to death with a pair of scissors after sexually assaulting her. He had been out of prison only three months after serving two years of a five-year sentence for rape.


Anonymous said...

As far as the death penalty for the mentally challenged goes, we ALL know that George W. Bush is we-tall-did, and yet he is responsible for the deaths of nearly a million human beings, and I think the death penalty is appropriate in his case.

Jeff Wood is a goof hanging out with a sociopath.

Ok so Cheney's a sociopath and I see the connection, but Bush is believed by many Bushies to be mentally competent, and due to the numbers of deaths, I still think the death penalty will apply in his case, when Bugliosi's book becomes a reality. (Wooo Hooo--let's see some JUSTICE in America again)

Anonymous said...

So let me see, the state of Texas forces someone with mental retardation to stipulate that they don't have mental retardation in order to get a life sentence instead of a death sentence.

As the federal judge in the Wood case said, it's "an insane system".

Anonymous said...

How does it feel 6:44 to be so sure of your opinion that even the facts won't change your mind?

The State of Texas didn't force Penry to do anything. Penry won 3 times vs the State at the US Supreme Court so you are talking about somebody who is clearly not just going to lie down and take what the State offers.

The truth is that Penry lied to everyone by faking mental retardation.

Anonymous said...

Grits, First - thank you for monitoring the verbiage of the comments. Unfortunately, everyone does not exhibit topic information or viable conversational tools that may enlighten the narrow minded. Second, I am not an advocate of the death penalty only because its hypocritical. It serves as a tool but noone wants to be accountable that juries, prosecutors and the defense counsel are only allowed to present what the "judge" desires and the laws are open ended and leave it up to someone else to "interpret". Probably those who sleep together? Anyway, it is painfully obvious that the root to some issues lay at the lower court level and the expectation of correction at the higher court. Which may or may not happen. I do not desire to have the blood of an innocent or the blood of making judgement on someone on my hands or my card to heaven. I really don't want the error of condemning a mentally ill person - when the lower court obviously thought that he was mentally ill and sentenced him to a facility of such...BUT after med's and care (which probably weren't a factor in his crime) then it should stand that jail and "rehabilitation" tools and structure of taking the med's versus Texas always wanting to take a life are more common. Kudos for the stay.

Anonymous said...

The executioner wears a hood.

Anonymous said...

Well, unfortunately I think that everyone should place this case in perspective. This man is a robber and a criminal. This man terrorized others in concert with other criminals. One of his cohorts has been executed, thank Texas at least makes an attempt to protect its law abiding citizens.God. This man's time will come soon. Get him some anti-depressants or whatever evens him out and put that needle in him. I have heard talk from others in this room that say this man is innocent. No, he is not. He was convicted because his actions in concert with others reasonably could have been foreseen as causing a persons death.

For instance, lets say you and a buddy decide to go rob a store, with a gun. Is it foreseeable that your buddy may kill a person? Of course it is. Facts are facts, Jeff should not rob in Texas nor should anyone else. I am sorry for Jeff's family but I am more sorry for the family of the person his actions and the actions of his friend killed. At least Jeff's family has this limited time with him, the victim of this crime will never walk this earth again.

Moral of the story, kill or rob in more liberal states. They may just give you a few years.

Anonymous said...

The clerk they killed was a friend of theirs. They asked him in advance to participate in a staged robbery but the clerk declined but Wood and his co-conspirator proceeded with the crime anyway, knowing their friend could positively identify both of them.

Big shock, they shot him in the face. Wood took the survelience video... so he was not so mentally impaired to understand what was going on, how they would be discovered, and what he might try to do about it.

Wood is a lot of things, but innocent isn't one of them.

Anonymous said...

Can anyone give me a reason why LWOP is NOT an option for Wood, given that he did not kill anyone himself?wzsdv

Anonymous said...

Sunray's Wench,

Mr. Wood's actions caused the death of a person, a human being. Mr. Wood acted in concert with another with the intent to commit a felony, and in doing so caused the death of a human being. That human being was someone's son, friend, perhaps a husband or father (I personally don't know that much about the victim). As much as can be delayed, his death should be at the hands of the state. Why allow this man to continue breathing?

To answer your question, in the course of human events there are crimes that warrant death. If we as humans do not hold each other accountable who will? The state has a moral duty to end the life of Mr. Wood so that he cannot rob or cause the death of any more people. Mr. Wood is beyond redemption and has committed a great sin. Justice from time to time must have blood to grease its gears as sad as it may be. Mr. Woods death will assist in the ideal that there is punishment and not the liberal "hug a thug" culture for heinous crimes. Not only will Mr. Wood's death bring some measure of closure to the victim's family, it will also end Mr. Wood's pain if he even has any remorse for his horrible crime. It sounds as if he blames others for his own deadly actions.

Also the legal reason. Mr. Wood and his cohort committed a robbery. A person died as a result of that robbery and robbery is a felony in Texas. When ever there is a criminal conspiracy in the commission of a felony and that felony results in the death of a human being then that is a capital crime and the prosecutor has the right and the moral/legal obligation to seek the death penalty in full view of the circumstances.

Hope that helps,


Anonymous said...

Matthew ~ thanks, So why doesnt Texas execute all murderers?

Anonymous said...

LWOP was not on the books when Wood committed his crime. So, he is only eligible for life with parole.

Anonymous said...

The decision to murder is never rational so it is a sign of at least temporarily insanity.

Someone willing to kill his own friend for a split of the contents of a convience store cash register is worth executing.

dudleysharp said...

Some important quotes from the stay opinion:

On August 21, 2008, Federal District Court Judge Garcia order a stay, for Jeff Wood, based upon:

"Admittedly, the evidence of (Wood's) alleged incompetence now before this Court is far from compelling. (Wood) has never been definitively diagnosed with any mental illness."

"Thus, there is evidence before this Court suggesting (Wood's) alleged refusal to comprehend, or perhaps, possibly to admit, the connection between his role in the fatal shooting of Kriss Keeran and the death sentence imposed upon him may be more demonstrative of (Wood's) anti social behavior than of a true mental illness."

". . . the evidence at (Wood's) trial established (that Wood) participated in a pair of armed robberies of convenience stores which culminated in the fatal shooting of a store clerk by (Wood's) accomplice Danny Reneau on January 22, 1996." " (Wood) drove the get-away vehicle in both robberies."

Even with the "minimal evidence of (Wood's) delusional thought processes" (the Judge's words), the Court decided to issue a stay.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

What is your point, Dudley? Or is there one? Simply quoting the opinion is not an argument, and the judge supported a delay (I assume, as in every instance involving capital cases no matter what the particular issue, you do not).

If as you aim to imply the defendant is faking it, the state's failure to provide adequate due process becomes doubly bad: Not only does the lack of process risk executing mentally ill defendants contrary to prior court rulings, it creates unnecessary delays that are troublesome for victim families seeking "closure" (I know you're big on that), since just doing what they should have in the first place would move the process along much faster.

dudleysharp said...

Howdy, Scott:

My point was, there is currently, no evidence of any mental illness. However, that Webb is anti social.

If you have followed this case, Wood's suporters have " mental illness" mania for Wood. It is just more deception. At least, so far.

Please don't play the silly/stupid debater, OK? You wrote

". . . the judge supported a delay (I assume, as in every instance involving capital cases no matter what the particular issue, you do not).

There is no evidence that I act in such a fashion. Sometimes I think delays and appeals have merit, sometimes I don't.

I was told this was a more intelligent blog. You should act like it is.

As "insane" as Judge Garcia thinks the Texas system is, by the judges own words, it is quite reasonable to see how the Texas courts came to the position they did and refused a stay and a hearing. All over the US state courts and federal courts have disagreements. This is but one.

Yes, the process could have gone faster had a hearing been granted sooner by a Texas Court. You could just as easily said that it would have been faster had Garcia denied the stay and hearing, but speed wasn't really your point, was it?

Based upon Wood's history and Judge Garcia's comments, within this latest ruling, the mental evaluation will prove as unsuccessful as the law of parties challenge.

Anonymous said...

I have had dealings with Offender wood through being a corrections officer. He is not retarded. I don't care what anyone says. He in fact is smart (which shocked me to be honest). Not dangerously smart... just a bit above average smart. This is a Sham. Then again When you take a death row inmate to their last visit they usually tell you that they did it. Then at their last statement they say they are innocent. Its all game to a lot of them.

Anonymous said...

Its me again (the corrections officer) Might I also add that Listening to Bad new wave and dark wave 80's music and wanting to be tragic and sad does not make you mentally ill. It just makes you a Goth.

Anonymous said...

Retardation is too easy to fake.

Ultimately science will provide an answer in the form of some futuristic brain scan.

Even though it will work to detect true retardation, it will be controversial because the state will seek to use it to find clues of guilt. The intoxilyzer case law will be critical when such a machine becomes available.

Until then we'll have to make due with psych exams... which isn't even a "real" science.