A man from Kerville, Texas is facing a nightmare scenario—he is about to undergo the death penalty despite never actually murdering anyone.
Back in 1966, Jeff Wood was waiting outside in his truck while his friend Daniel Reneau attempted to steal a safe from a gas station. Reneau ultimately shot the gas station clerk, Kirss Keeran, when he refused to hand the safe over, and both Reneau and Wood were convicted.
Reneau received the death penalty and was executed in 2002, but because of a little-known aspect in Texas’s felony murder statute—“which holds that anyone involved in a crime resulting in death is equally responsible, even if they weren’t directly involved in the actual killing,” according to Raw Story—Wood was also sentenced to death.
Kerr County prosecutors sought the death penalty for both Reneau and Wood, arguing that Wood knew Reneau would kill Keeran, making Wood culpable of capital murder under the law of parties. This law mandates that an individual “can be charged with a crime he didn’t commit if he 'should have anticipated it as a result’ of another crime,” Raw Story reports.
However, police interrogation reveals Wood was not even aware the murder would occur: “We had planned it, but it was a surprise, a surprise that [Reneau] did shoot him,” he told authorities.
Regardless, Wood is now expected to face execution at the end of August.
An appeal has been filed and numerous concerned citizens have signed a petition urging Gov. Greg Abbott to find some way to pardon Wood, who, no matter his other crimes, does not deserve the death penalty for his involvement.
Wood has already served 20 years in prison for his actions, and certainly should not face the same fate as Reneau.
Cases such as these continue to expose the egregious issues that reside within our criminal justice system; Texas’s “law of parties” is callous and antiquated, particularly when many states have abolished the death penalty altogether.
Hopefully a strong public outcry will keep Wood’s appeal alive and delay any proceedings for his execution.
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