Monday, March 23, 2009

Jeff Wood loses federal appeal

There are two bills pending in the Texas Legislature that would prevent prosectors from seeking the death penalty for people who do not kill but are convicted under the Law of Parties.of Austin American Statesman reports:
A Texas death row inmate who came within hours of being executed last summer has lost an appeal in federal court, where his lawyers argued that he is too mentally ill to be put to death.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in New Orleans, rejected the appeal from Jeffery Wood, 35, who received the death penalty for the January 1996 slaying of Kriss Keeran at a convenience store in Kerrville.

Evidence showed that Wood waited in a car outside the convenience store while his roommate, Daniel Reneau, fatally shot 31-year-old Keeran in the face with a .22-caliber pistol.

Both men then robbed the store, taking more than $11,000 in cash and checks.

Reneau was executed in 2002.

Wood's execution was scheduled for August, but the lethal injection was delayed by a federal judge, who ruled that Wood could be tested to determine whether he is mentally competent to understand why he should be executed.

In the appeal to the New Orleans-based court, Wood's lawyers said they needed a second expert, a neuropsychologist, to examine Wood. He had already been examined by a forensic psychologist.

"Mr. Wood lacks a rational understanding of his death sentence and of the reasons for his imminent execution," Wood's attorney Scott Sullivan said in the motion filed last week.

The defense team also wanted the court to approve the hiring of an additional investigator and keep the expenses and results confidential.

Prosecutors argued that Wood already had an expert "of his own choosing," has not demonstrated why he needs a second and has shown "only generic reasons for confidentiality."

Earlier, a federal district judge ruled that relevant information about Wood's mental condition should not be concealed.

"At this stage of the proceedings, there is no need for 'trial by ambush' or 'gamesmanship,' " the Texas attorney general's office wrote in stating its opposition to Wood's appeal.

The appeals court, in its ruling Friday, agreed, saying that Wood's lawyers gave no reasons for a need for confidentiality.

The appeals court also pointed out that the lower court judge did not bar the lawyers from asking again for the second psychological expert but said that the public interest would not be served by stopping everything in the courts regarding Wood's case.

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