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Execution halted of accomplice who did not pull the trigger

Published 20/08/2016

The case has drawn attention across the US
The case has drawn attention across the US

A court has halted the execution of a Texas man who was scheduled to die for a fatal 1996 robbery in which he was not the person who pulled the trigger.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled 7-2 on Friday to put Jeffery Wood's execution on hold. Wood, 43, was scheduled to die by lethal injection on Wednesday.

The case has drawn attention across the US over Wood's culpability in the shooting of a shop assistant, his mental competence and criticism surrounding his original trial.

In a two-page opinion, the appeals court said it was sending the case back to a lower court to review defence claims that the death sentence was based on false testimony and false scientific evidence.

Those claims were based on the testimony of a since-discredited psychiatrist that Wood would certainly pose a future risk to public safety.

Wood's lawyer, Jared Tyler, who had sought the stay last month, said "the court did the right thing" in halting the execution and returning the case to a state district court to have the claims resolved.

Wood and his friend Daniel Reneau were convicted over the fatal shooting of the 31-year-old assistant during a robbery in the Texas Hill Country.

Wood waited in a car while Reneau shot the clerk in the face.

Wood was convicted of capital murder under what is known as the Texas law of parties, which makes a participant in a capital murder case equally culpable.

Reneau was executed in 2002.

"Justice is not served by executing Mr Wood, who was outside the building when it happened and who had no criminal history," Mr Tyler said in a statement on Friday.

"Three former jurors have said they feel the government's presentation to them of a discredited psychiatrist who predicted with certainty, and without evaluating Mr Wood, that Mr Wood would be criminally violent in the future, was unfair. The jurors no longer support a death sentence."

A federal judge halted the original execution date in 2008 so that Wood - who was once found to have been mentally incompetent to stand trial - could be tested to determine whether he understood why he would be put to death.

Tests showed Wood was competent, and courts have upheld those findings.

AP

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