Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Texas is about to execute Jeffery Wood for a murder he didn't commit. (Photo: Kurt and Sybilla/flickr/cc)

Texas is about to execute Jeffery Wood for a murder he didn't commit. (Photo: Kurt and Sybilla/flickr/cc)

Texas Readies to Kill Man—Who Killed No One—for Murder

Jeffery Wood on track to be the 'least culpable person executed in the modern era of death penalty'

Andrea Germanos

Texas—the state that leads the nation (pdf) in number of executions—is on the brink of killing Jeffery Wood.

His execution is scheduled for Aug. 24, which is "just five days after his 43rd birthday, for a crime that everyone, including prosecutors, admits he did not commit,"Jordan Smith wrote at The Intercept.

He's been on death row since 1998. Two years earlier, as the Austin Chronicle reported, he was arrested

for the murder of Kris Keeran, a gas station attendant in Kerrville. Wood didn't fire the bullet that killed Keeran. In fact, he wasn't even inside the building. He was in a pickup truck in the parking lot when his friend Daniel Reneau shot Keeran in the face during a botched robbery. Wood jumped out of the car and ran inside when he heard the gunshot. There, Reneau pointed his gun at Wood and told him to make off with the Texaco's surveillance camera and VCR.

So why is Wood about to face a lethal injection of pentobarbital?

Hooman Hedayati, an attorney and a member of the Texas Moratorium Network Board of Directors, explained in an op-ed at the Austin American-Statesman last month:

Wood was convicted and sentenced to die under Texas' arcane felony-murder law, more commonly known as the "the law of parties"—for his role as an accomplice to a killing, which he had no reason to anticipate. Under the law of parties, those who conspire to commit a felony, like a robbery, can be held responsible for a subsequent crime, like murder, if it "should have been anticipated." The law does not require a finding that the person intended to kill. It only requires that the defendant, charged under the law of parties, was a major participant in the underlying felony and exhibited a reckless indifference to human life. In other words, neglecting to anticipate another actor's commission of murder in the course of a felony is all that is required to make a Texas defendant death-eligible.

Human rights group Amnesty International issued an "urgent alert" Friday to help stop the execution, noting that Wood "has a history of emotional and intellectual impairments, and an IQ consistently assessed at about 80."

An additional troubling aspecting of the case, Amnesty writes, is that

A prerequisite for a death sentence in Texas is a jury finding of the defendant's "future dangerousness." At Jeffery Wood's sentencing, the prosecution called Dr. James Grigson, a discredited psychiatrist dubbed "Dr. Death" who regularly testified at Texas capital sentencings as to his certainty that the defendant would commit future acts of violence, a form of testimony for which by 1998 he had already been expelled from the American Psychiatric Association. The prosecution nevertheless presented such testimony at Jeffery Wood’s trial, without informing the jury of his expulsion. Meanwhile, the defence lawyers made no arguments, put on no witnesses, and presented no mitigation evidence. They "sat mute" throughout, noted the federal judge in 2005.

The case prompted roughly 50 Evangelical leaders from across the county to write to Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles on Monday, urging them to stop the execution. "Officials have a moral obligation to rectify this mistake and stop this execution while they still can," they wrote, adding, "It deeply troubles us when the criminal justice system concludes that some of the most vulnerable in society can be executed and disposed of."

From the Washington Post's lengthy reporting Friday on the case: "If executed this month, Wood will be the 'least culpable person executed in the modern era of death penalty,' said Scott Cobb, president of Texas Moratorium Network, a group that advocates against capital punishment."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Please select a donation method:

AOC Slams Conservative Dems Who Would Rather Skip Town Than Vote to Extend Eviction Ban

"We cannot in good faith blame the Republican Party when House Democrats have the majority."

Jake Johnson ·


'A Devastating Failure': Eviction Ban Expires as House Goes on Vacation and Biden Refuses to Act

"We’re now in an eviction emergency," said Rep. Cori Bush. "Eleven million are now at risk of losing their homes at any moment. The House needs to reconvene and put an end to this crisis."

Jake Johnson ·


With Election Days Away, Bernie Sanders Headlines Get-Out-the-Vote Rally for Nina Turner

In his keynote speech, Sanders said corporate interests are pulling out all the stops to defeat Turner because "they know that when she is elected, she is going to stand up and take them on in the fight for justice."

Jake Johnson ·


Bush, Pressley, and Omar Sleep Outside Capitol to Demand Extension of Eviction Moratorium

Rep. Cori Bush, who was formerly unhoused, slammed her Democratic colleagues who "chose to go on vacation early today rather than staying to vote to keep people in their homes."

Jake Johnson ·


As Progressives Call for End to Blockade, Biden Announces More Sanctions Against Cuba

The move comes after Democratic leadership in the House blocked an amendment to roll back limits on how much money people in the United States can send to family on the island nation.

Jessica Corbett ·