Friday, December 8, 2017

DA asks Governor to grant clemency

Texas, like many other states in the South, has an unhealthy fascination with the Old Testatment's call for an eye for an eye. Well, to an extent. It's long been the case that an eye for an eye applied mainly to black defendants convicted of murder while white defendants convicted of murdering a black man seemed to escape Biblical wrath more often than not.

Texas even went above and beyond when the felony murder statute made any person involved in a felony offense where a person was murdered subject to being killed by the state.

Back in 1996, Jeff Wood got himself caught up in the maelstrom when he was convicted of murder of a convenience store clerk in Kerrville - even though he was sitting outside in the truck while his friend, Daniel Reneau, shot and killed the clerk.

The prosecutor in that case, Lucy Wilke, asked the jury to sentence Mr. Wood to death for his role in the murder. Now Ms. Wilke is the Kerr County District Attorney and has had a change of heart. So to have the police chief of Kerrville, David Knight, and State District Judge Keith Williams. They all signed a letter to Governor Greg Abbot asking him to grant Mr. Wood clemency and change his sentence to life in prison.

In 2016, Mr. Wood was scheduled to be murdered by the State of Texas. As his execution date approached there was an uproar in the state legislature - from both sides of the aisle - about the scheduled execution. There were also calls to change the law of parties to eliminate the provision allowing a jury to sentence a defendant to death if they thought he should have anticipated that a second felony might flow from the first.

Those efforts failed in the most recent legislative session.

While you might argue that any person who participates in a felony should be culpable for any murder that might occur during the commission of the felony, sticking a needle in the arm of someone who didn't pull the trigger is a bit of a reach.

Regardless of what you might think of Mr. Wood, he is not the person who made the decision to kill the clerk. He didn't intentionally or knowingly cause the death of Kriss Keeran.

Strapping Mr. Wood down on a gurney and pumping poison into his veins isn't going to bring anyone back. It's not going to ease anyone's pain. It will not fill the hole in anyone's life.

It would, instead, make everyone involved complicit in a disproportionate response to an unfortunate incident.

I think the reason that Republican members of the state legislature got behind the effort to halt the execution is they felt that killing a person who didn't pull the trigger would only give more ammunition to the those of us who want to see an end to the death penalty.

All eyes are now on Greg Abbot. But don't expect him to grant clemency. Mr. Abbot is a true believer who thinks it makes him look tough to order an execution carried out.

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