Texan Seeks Clemency in Disputed Murder Conviction

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Jeffrey Wood and Daniel Reneau had only known each other for a couple of months when in 1996, Wood waited in the car as his new friend entered a Texaco station. When Wood, a 22-year-old with no prior criminal record, heard gunshots, he went inside the store to find the attendant, Kris Keeran, shot dead. Wood says that Reneau then pointed his .22-caliber handgun at him and forced him to steal the surveillance video and drive the getaway car, reports the Texas Monthly. Witness reports led police to Reneau and Wood, and the pair was arrested the next day. Reneau, who confessed to the crime, was convicted of capital murder in 1997 and sentenced to death. He was executed five years later.

Wood didn’t pull the trigger, but prosecutors tried him for capital murder under the Texas Law of Parties, which holds that someone can be held liable for an offense committed by another person. A jury found Wood responsible for either intending or anticipating the murder Reneau committed and sentenced him to death. His execution is scheduled for August 24. Wood’s family and his lawyer have long maintained that his trial was flawed from beginning to end. A jury first found Wood, who has a below-average IQ of 80, incompetent to stand trial, and he was committed to a psychiatric institution. Less than three weeks later, he was determined competent by a psychiatrist to stand trial. After he was convicted, he tried to represent himself during his sentencing, but the judge denied that request, effectively finding him mentally incompetent to do so. Wood is seeking clemency, but only two Texans have had such requests granted since 1976.

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