37 WEST 12TH STREET
NEW YORK, N.Y. 10011
August 12, 2008
The Honorable Rick Perry
Governor, State of Texas
State Capitol, Room 2S.I
Austin, Texas 78701
Ms. Rissie Owens, Chair
Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles
8610 Shoal Creek Boulevard
Austin, Texas 78757
Re: Jeffrey Wood, TDJC No. 999256
Dear Governor Perry and Chair Owens,
Jeffrey Wood is scheduled to be executed on August 21, 2008. I write you to request the commutation of Mr. Wood's sentence from death to a period of imprisonment for the number of years you find the facts of the case warrant.
As the records before you show, Daniel Reneau was executed on June 13, 2002 as the person who committed the murder of Kris Keiran. He was alone with the victim in the store when he fired the fatal shot.
There are three major reasons why the death penalty imposed on Mr. Wood is improper on the facts of this case.
1. Mr. Wood was not present in the store in which the victim was murdered at the time of the murder. He had no reason to believe Mr. Reneau intended to murder Mr. Keiran because he understood the original plan to fake a robbery of the store with the participation of its manager had been abandoned the day before. Mr. Wood believed Mr. Reneau was not armed when he entered the store and that he had no intention of committing any crime.
2. Mr. Wood has suffered from severe mental, emotional and learning disabilities all his life either caused by or resulting from beatings by his parents from earliest childhood, or both. He was initially found not fit to stand trial and hospitalized. The jury never heard testimony concerning his mental condition, because during the penalty phase of this trial, after the Court refused to let him represent himself, he ordered his lawyers not to call any witnesses who would have testified about his mental handicap and severe beatings as a child.
3. Mr. Wood, over 30 at the time of his trial, had no previous criminal record.
I am an 80 year old third generation Texan on my mother’s side, second generation Texan on my father’s side, whose children are multi generation Texans on both their mothers and fathers side with relatives still resident in Dallas, Corpus Christi, Beaumont and Houston. I have opposed the death penalty in all cases since before I entered the University of Texas. I was licensed to practice
law in Texas in 1951. Though I left Texas in 1961 to join the Kennedy Administration, I retain a deep concern for the quality of justice in Texas and its reputation in the nation.
Texas should act now to restrict its death penalty to the individual who personally commits the act of killing. I represented Carlos Santana in his last appeals before his execution on April 23, 1993. Carlos, a citizen of the Dominican Republic, was one of the seven persons executed in Texas since 1976 under a charge of felony murder, or law of parties. He left a young widow and two orphaned children. Carlos raised his head from the gurney moments before his death to face his audience and said “Violence is not the way, love is the way.” For me, at the time, this confirmed his profound moral character. His execution was a tragic miscarriage of justice. He killed no one.
The execution of Jeffrey Wood on the facts of his case, mentality impaired, outside, unarmed, not expecting any crime to be committed, would be the most extreme execution in Texas of a person who had killed no one, and could not have anticipated that anyone would be killed, of all the unfortunate executions under legal theories of felony murder, or law of parties.
I urge you to commute this death sentence and limit application of the death sentence to the actual killer.