BEFORE THE GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF TEXAS

AND
THE TEXAS BOARD OF PARDONS AND PAROLE
_____________________________________
In re:
Jeffery Lee Wood,
Petitioner.
_____________________________________
APPLICATION FOR COMMUTATION OF SENTENCE TO LIFE
AND
REQUEST FOR HEARING
Pursuant to 37 Tex. Admin. Code § 143.57(g)(3)

Mr. Wood is Scheduled for Execution on August 24, 2016
J. Scott Sullivan
Texas Bar No. 19483350
LAW OFFICES OF J. SCOTT SULLIVAN
22211 IH 10 W., Ste. 1206
San Antonio, Texas 78257
TEL: (210) 227-6000
ssullivan18@satx.rr.com

Jared Tyler
Texas Bar No. 24042073
TYLER LAW FIRM, PLLC
P.O. Box 764
Houston, Texas 77001
TEL: (832) 606-2302
jptyler@tylerlawfirm.org

Counsel for Jeffery Lee Wood

To the Board of Pardons and Paroles:
This Board has recommended commutations for two persons who did not take
human life themselves. In 2007, the Board recommended that the Governor grant a
commutation of sentence from death to life to Kenneth Foster. Foster had been tried
under Texas’s “law of parties.”1 The State conceded he was not the triggerperson. The
Board voted 6-1 in favor of recommending to the Governor that he grant a commutation of sentence. In 2009, the Board again recommended a commutation of sentence for Robert Thompson. Like Foster, there was no dispute that Thompson had
not by his own actions taken a life. We request, on behalf of Mr. Wood, that the
Board recommend commutation for a third.
Jeffery Wood has never killed anybody, nor did he intend for anybody to be
killed. His emotional and intellectual impairments rendered him vulnerable to manipulation and domination by others, in this case his codefendant Daniel Reneau,
who was executed in 2002. The basic facts of the case are not in dispute. Wood was
charged with capital murder for the January 2, 1996, death of Kriss Keeran in the
216th District Court of Kerr County, Texas.2 Daniel Reneau shot Keeran in order to
steal a safe at a Texaco convenience store at which Keeran worked. Wood, unaware
that Reneau would harm anybody, sat in a truck parked outside the store. At least
three people who sat on Wood’s jury now believe his sentence should be commuted to
life.
Jeffery Lee Wood
Wood has borderline intellectual functioning, a severe disability.3 He is described by his step-mother as an “eight-year-old in a man’s body.”4 As early as elemen1

See Texas Penal Code § 7.02.

Venue was transferred several times. Trial on the merits and sentencing occurred
in Bandera County.
2

Wood’s IQ has repeatedly and consistently been tested at approximately 80, which
is more than one full standard deviation below normal. There are “marked similarities between the situation of people with intellectual disabilities and those with borderline intellectual functioning.” Eric Emerson, et. al., The Mental Health of Young Children With Intellectual Disabilities or Borderline Intellectual Functioning, 45 SOC. PSYCHIAT. EPIDEMIOLOGY 579 (2010). These similarities include significantly higher rates of mental health needs,
similar patterns of service response to mental health disorders, and increased risk of exposure to socioeconomic disadvantage. Another study found that “[b]oys with externalizing
symptoms and a subaverage IQ displayed an impulsive-response style with deficiencies in
their information-processing capacity. The authors concluded that children with problems
of conduct and BIF [borderline intellectual functioning] belong to one of the most vulnerable groups of youth in Western society.” Elisabeth Fernell and Ulla Ek, Borderline Intellectual Functioning in Children and Adolescents – Insufficiently Recognized Difficulties, 99
Acta Paediatrica 748 (2010).
3

1

tary school, Wood was identified by the East Central Independent School District in
San Antonio as being in need of additional services. He was tested and determined
to be hyperactive. In sixth grade, at the age of twelve and after a change in schools,
Wood was again immediately identified as requiring additional attention. Assessed
by a psychologist, he was described as “hyperactive,”“highly impulsive,” and having a
“short attention span.” The psychologist reported,
Hygiene and grooming are also often poor. During an observation, Jeff
was very fidgety. He was seldom on task but did volunteer to answer
questions and offered to loan another student a pencil. He seemed to
want attention from his math teacher, asking her for help on the testing activity. The observer’s opinion was that Jeff seemed to want to
have his teacher all to himself.5
The psychologist administered several tests, and observed that Wood presented a
“challenging” case because his “behavior and attitudes fluctuated rapidly.”6 He “constantly subvocalized self-derogatory statements and complaints usually with great
expression and intensity.”7
Psychomotor testing reflected a visual-motor score “significantly below his
chronological age range,” which impacted Wood’s spelling and written expression.8
Personality assessment reflected that Wood “demonstrates the impulsivity and disorganization often noted in youngsters with some form of a visual-motor deficit.”9
Additionally, excessive anxiety and fear create tension, and lead to
faulty reasoning and reality testing. The result is a youngster who exercises exceptionally poor judgement which, along with achievement
failures, further results in negative consequences. This, in turn, fosters
self-doubt and recrimination. Jeff is not able currently to pull himself
out of this dilemma by using productive problem solving strategies
since self-introspection is so painful, and an objective wholistic [sic]
picture of reality is so difficult for him to attain. His subjective perceptions seem to be fragmented and filled with morbid, threatening elements. He seems to feel a strong drive to retreat from emotional stimuli and emotionally laden thoughts; if unable to do so, perceptions of reality become even more distorted. ...

4

App. 1 (Affidavit of Mitzie Wood, Mar. 24, 2000).

5

App. 2 at 2 (Comprehensive Psychological Evaluation, Apr. 29, 1987).

6

Id.

7

Id.

8

Id. at 3.

9

Id. at 5.

2

In summary, Jeff is a very troubled youngster who is at risk for regressing to even a less functional state. The variety of problematic behaviors he displays are reflections of his extreme internal discomfort
created by his negative impressions of himself and his world.10
The psychologist diagnosed Wood as having severe overanxious disorder with
avoidant features and determined him to meet the disability criteria for the category of Emotionally Disturbed.11 Finally,
Parents are strongly encouraged to arrange for therapeutic intervention for Jeff. No matter what teachers can do for Jeff at school, part of
his problems stem from personal issues which he will need to resolve.
Without such help, Jeff is at risk for developing more serious difficulties.12
The psychologist further recommended that corporal punishment not be used
against Wood because “this will only make Jeff feel more helpless” and cause realitydistortion.13 Teachers were also recommended to provide Wood with alternatives,
because “Jeff tends to narrow his focus when upset. Discussions during these
times will likely be fruitless.”14 The middle school thereafter placed Wood in special education.
Wood was assessed by a different school psychologist in 1990 at age fifteen.15
The psychologist observed that teachers found Wood to be “seemingly happy and socially appropriate with classmates,” but “easily distracted” and “restless.”16 “He needs
instructions repeated. He looses [sic] his papers.”17 The psychologist further reported
about Wood’s behavior,
This examiner observed that Jeff looked his age but acted like a middle
school boy. . . . During both test sessions Jeff chewed gum so vigorously
that his ears wiggled. His facial and body movements were loose.
Sometimes he mumbled or distorted his speech. Jeff was anxious about
his test performance and frequently he asked how he was doing. He
worded it negatively, though, as, “I flunked, didn’t I?” On the Rorschach
Jeff nervously rotated the cards and took a long time to respond. He
10

Id. at 5–6.

11

Id. at 6.

12

Id. at 7.

13

Id. at 6.

14

Id. at 7 (emphasis added).

App. 3 (Comprehensive Individual Assessment and Psychological Evaluation, May
14, 1990).
15

16

Id. at 2.

17

Id.

3

was reluctant to risk an initial answer on the Rorschach. Rather, after
a minute he asked the examiner, “What do you think it looks like?”18
Six years later, at age 21, Wood would be charged with capital murder for Daniel
Reneau’s decision to murder Kris Keeran. Wood’s debilitating emotional and intellectual impairments made him vulnerable to Reneau and severely diminished his capacity to anticipate what Reneau was capable of doing inside the convenience store.
Daniel Earl Reneau
Daniel Reneau was a drifter with an “unstable personality” who wandered into
Kerrville, Texas during the summer of 1995. A psychiatrist retained by Reneau’s
lawyer during his capital murder trial attributed this “unstable personality” to
Reneau’s having a “severe personality disorder, which included some, what we call,
narcissistic features, borderline features and some antisocial features” with “a history
of depression, a history of alcohol abuse, a history of drug abuse.”19 Reneau was
twenty years old when he came to Kerrville. He had been confined in a juvenile
mental health facility in San Marcos, Texas, until he turned eighteen.20 Homeless in
Kerrville, Reneau was allowed by an employee of the Save Inn Motel to sleep in its
office.21 A man named David Warner subsequently took him in. Warner allowed
Reneau to stay in his home from August 1995 until the end of October 1995, when
he was asked to leave.22
It was in early November 1995 that Reneau met Wood.23 Wood at the time
was living with his long-term girlfriend Nadia Mireles and their daughter in an
apartment in Kerrvile.24 Although Wood at this time struggled to hold a job and was
unemployed, he had not been engaged in any criminal activity.25 That was about to
change due to Reneau’s influence. Reneau first came over to Wood’s and Mireles’s
apartment with Wood’s friend Terry.26 In late November, Wood, Mireles, Terry, and
18

Id.

Statement of Facts, State v. Reneau, No. AP-72,812, at Vol. 21: 177. Wood did not
do drugs and did not abuse alcohol. App. 4 at 2 (Affidavit of Nadia Howell, Mar. 25, 2000).
19

20

Statement of Facts, State v. Reneau, No. AP-72,812, at Vol. 21: 176.

21

Statement of Facts, State v. Reneau, No. AP-72,812, at Vol. 21: 146–48.

22

Statement of Facts, State v. Reneau, No. AP-72,812, at Vol. 21: 130–33.

Statement of Facts, State v. Reneau, No. AP-72,812, at Vol. 21: 27. Although Wood
was one year biologically older than Reneau, Wood was (and remains) mentally far younger
than his biological age.
23

24

Statement of Facts, State v. Reneau, No. AP-72,812, at Vol. 19: 143.

Statement of Facts, State v. Reneau, No. AP-72,812, at Vol. 19: 146; Vol. 21: 27.
See also App. 4 at 1.
25

26

Id.

4

Reneau went on a two-week trip to Washington State to visit Mireles’s sister.27
Reneau began a romantic relationship with Mireles’s sister while there, and she returned to Kerrville with them.28 Around November 26, 1995, Wood, Mireles, her sister, and Reneau moved into a trailer owned by Mireles’s grandfather.29
It was at this point that Mireles believed Reneau’s personality began to
change. Whereas Mireles initially found Reneau nice and polite, he became increasingly erratic and threatening. Mireles became “worried about [her] safety, as well as
[her] daughter’s and [her] sister’s. [Reneau] became very aggressive, angry all the
time.”30 It was during this period that Reneau began arming himself and committing
crimes. On November 30, 1995, Reneau had Wood drop him off at a convenience
store in Kerr County, where Reneau used a pellet gun to rob it of approximately
$600. In December, Reneau influenced Wood and two juveniles to steal firearms out
of two buildings known to the juveniles to contain guns.31 Reneau pointed a firearm
at each of the juveniles and threatened to kill them if they turned him in.32 Reneau
kept the stolen firearms and stored them at Mireles’s trailer, and always insisted on
carrying one on him.33 During this period, Mireles tried to get Reneau to leave the
trailer.34 Reneau pointed a gun at her and told her that if she ever turned him in for
his criminal activity, he would kill her and her daughter.35
“There wasn’t really a plan.”
Although there was a desire to obtain the safe in which thousands of dollars
had accumulated from the Texaco store, there was no plan, in any meaningful
sense, to rob the Texaco. Reneau and Wood had visited the store often. The store
was within walking distance from the trailer they lived in, and neither owned a
car.36 They scratched lottery tickets and befriended the store’s employees, William
Bunker and Kris Keeran, who gave Wood and Reneau free drinks.37 Wood consid-

27

Statement of Facts, State v. Reneau, No. AP-72,812, at Vol. 19: 144.

28

Statement of Facts, State v. Reneau, No. AP-72,812, at Vol. 19: 145.

29

Id.

30

Statement of Facts, State v. Reneau, No. AP-72,812, at Vol. 21: 25–26.

31

Statement of Facts, State v. Reneau, No. AP-72,812, at Vol. 21: 33–36, 49, 52–53.

32

Statement of Facts, State v. Reneau, No. AP-72,812, at Vol. 21: 43, 58.

33

Statement of Facts, State v. Reneau, No. AP-72,812, at Vol. 21: 21; 25 RR 84.

34

Statement of Facts, State v. Reneau, No. AP-72,812, at Vol. 19: 154.

35

Statement of Facts, State v. Reneau, No. AP-72,812, at Vol. 19: 154–55.

36

Statement of Facts, State v. Reneau, No. AP-72,812, at Vol. 19: 152.

37

Statement of Facts, State v. Reneau, No. AP-72,812, at Vol. 19: 57–58.

5

ered them friends. The talk between all four eventually turned to how to defraud
the store of money.
Then-32-year-old William Bunker was the assistant manager of the 24-hour
Texaco store. Bunker violated company policy by allowing Reneau and Wood into
the store office, including while Bunker counted out the day’s money.38 He participated in discussions with them about a plan to commit theft in which he would
leave the back door unlocked and walk outside while Reneau and Wood would slip
in and remove the store’s safe and security recording.39 He showed Reneau and
Wood where the safe and the recording equipment in the office were located.40 He
told Reneau and Wood approximately how much money would be in the safe after a
holiday weekend (“Ten or $20,000”), and when it would be removed for deposit (January 2).41 He was to be given a cut of the money.42 There was never mention about
violence or anyone getting hurt.43
Although Bunker would subsequently claim that he never took any of the
planning seriously, he testified he never told Reneau and Wood that he was abandoning their joint effort to steal the store’s safe.44 When the police approached Bunker to question him after Keeran’s death, Bunker lied and said he did not know anything about it and did not know anybody who was talking about it.45 As Kerrville
Police Department Detective Harry Fleming put it in his report, “Bunker lied, he
could have prevented the death of his friend and further that after the murder of
Keeran, that when Bunker could have assisted in the apprehension and identify the
actors, Bunker did not help or even be honest.”46 Although Keeran never would have
been shot had Bunker—a manager at the store
—not invited and actively participated in
planning the stealing of the store’s safe, he was never charged criminally for his role
in Keeran’s death.
The morning of January 2, 1996, would be the last opportunity to obtain the
money which had accumulated in the safe over the holiday period. Although Keeran
had been involved in discussions about taking the safe, he had conveyed to Reneau
and Wood that he would not participate in defrauding the store.47 As Keeran was to
38

24 RR 76–77, 86.

39

24 RR 75, 89.

40

24 RR 76, 86.

41

24 RR 77.

42

24 RR 88.

43

24 RR 90; 25 RR 84.

44

24 RR 88.

45

24 RR 92.

46

App. 5 (Excerpt from Kerrville Police Department Records).

47

Statement of Facts, State v. Reneau, No. AP-72,812, at Vol. 19: 138.

6

be on duty the morning of January 2, Reneau grew increasingly frustrated and began to brainstorm ideas to get the money without his cooperation.48 One plan formulated by Reneau before the robbery was for Mireles and her sister to enter the
store and distract Keeran while Reneau entered through the back and take the
safe.49
Wood had borrowed his brother’s truck over the holiday. He had to return it
early on January 2, so that his brother could drive to work.50 In the early morning
hours of January 2, Wood and Reneau drove to the convenience store and parked
outside it. Reneau, as usual, carried a gun. Wood, as usual, did not.51 Reneau first
made an attempt to discretely steal the safe. He pried open the office door at the
back of the store with the intent to wait until it got busy and then slip inside and
take the safe. However, Keeran shut and locked the door before he had the opportunity to do so. The pair ultimately gave up and returned to the trailer.52
At about 5:15 a.m., Reneau and Wood got ready to leave the trailer again.53
Wood told Mireles that they were going to stop at the Texaco and then go to Devine
so Wood could return his brother’s truck.54 When Reneau picked up a gun to take
with him, Wood asked him to leave it and said they were not going to try to get the
safe.55 Reneau put the gun under the couch and Wood walked outside to his brother’s truck.56 After Wood left, Reneau picked up the gun, stuck it in his pants, and
told Mireles he was “going to get the money, one way or the other, if he had to kill
him.”57
Back at the Texaco, Wood told Reneau he would go inside the store and ask
Keeran to let them take the safe like they had all previously talked about. But
Wood returned a few minutes later and told Reneau that he did not ask him.58
Reneau told Detective Fleming that, at this point, “there wasn’t really a plan.”59
48

Id.

49

Id.

50

25 RR 87.

Reneau had always insisted that he be armed regardless of what they were doing.
25 RR 84.
51

52

Statement of Facts, State v. Reneau, No. AP-72,812, at Vol. 19: 231–33.

53

Statement of Facts, State v. Reneau, No. AP-72,812, at Vol. 19: 139.

54

Id.

55

Id.; 25 RR 88.

56

Statement of Facts, State v. Reneau, No. AP-72,812, at Vol. 19: 139.

57

Id.

58

Statement of Facts, State v. Reneau, No. AP-72,812, at Vol. 19: 235–36.

59

Statement of Facts, State v. Reneau, No. AP-72,812, at Vol. 19: 236.

7

Reneau told the detective that when he went back into the store, his intention was
simply to scare Keeran into giving him the money.60 He was not thinking about
hurting Keeran.61
While Wood sat in the truck, Reneau entered the store, pointed the gun at
Keeran, and told him to go to the back room.62 His finger was on the trigger.63
Keeran did not respond, but stood motionless.64 Then, “the gun fired.”65 Reneau told
Detective Fleming that shooting Keeran was not what he wanted to do.66 When, for
whatever reason, Reneau shot Keeran, Wood was outside the store, oblivious to
what Reneau was capable of doing and to what he would do to Keeran.67 After the
gun fired, Wood entered the store, “confused,” with a look of “real shock on his face.”68
After Reneau shot and killed Keeran, he threatened Wood that he would kill Wood’s
girlfriend and daughter if he did not assist him.69
Daniel Reneau’s Trial and Execution
Reneau was tried first, convicted, and sentenced to death. The State relied
heavily on Mireles’s testimony during Reneau’s trial to persuade the jury to find
Reneau guilty and sentence him to death. It elicited her testimony that
[Reneau and Wood] had told me they were going to stop at the Texaco
and go to Devine, and Danny was going to take the gun with him and
Jeff told him to leave it there, and Danny put it under the couch and
Jeff walked out and Danny picked up the gun and stuck it in his pants
and said he was going to get the money, one way or the other, if he had
to kill him.70
The State told Reneau’s jury, “[Reneau] was frustrated, because this planning had
been going on for at least a couple of weeks, maybe longer, and he was just tired of
all this planning and all of these plans falling through, so he decided that one way
60

Id.

61

Statement of Facts, State v. Reneau, No. AP-72,812, at Vol. 19: 237.

62

Statement of Facts, State v. Reneau, No. AP-72,812, at Vol. 19: 239.

63

Id.

64

Statement of Facts, State v. Reneau, No. AP-72,812, at Vol. 19: 240.

65

Id.

66

Statement of Facts, State v. Reneau, No. AP-72,812, at Vol. 19: 242.

67

24 RR 219.

68

24 RR 220.

69

25 RR 100.

70

Statement of Facts, State v. Reneau, No. AP-72,812, at Vol. 19: 139.

8

or another, even if he had to kill someone, he was going to get that money.”71 The
State repeatedly vouched for Mireles’s credibility, telling Reneau’s jury that “she told
the truth. She told exactly what happened.”72
The State also elicited testimony in Reneau’s trial about threats made by
Reneau against the lives of Wood’s wife and child, as well as against the lives of other people with whom Reneau had committed crimes.73 The State told Reneau’s jury
during the sentencing phase of his trial, “[Reneau] knows right from wrong and he
knew the consequences of his actions. That’s why he threatened several people. He
threatened to kill them if they ever turned him into the police.”74 The State also recognized Reneau’s presence as the impetus for Wood’s involvement in crime, including
the underlying capital offense:
It’s amazing to me that Jeff Wood []is being blamed [by Reneau’s lawyer] for all this stuff, and yet you heard the witnesses. You have seen
the time frame. . . . When did all this criminal conduct begin? It just
happens to begin when Daniel Earl Reneau enters the picture. Now, it’s
always everybody else’s fault. They drag [Reneau] in and did it, but
none of these crimes were happening. You heard Toledo say, “I don’t
remember anyone doing all this stuff until Reneau shows up,” and then
the little crime wave begins. . . . Wood apparently was [not] doing that
stuff until Reneau shows up and after that two months of Reneau coming into the picture, bam, bam, bam, burglary, burglary, burglary, robbery, murder. What’s the common equation?75
Reneau was convicted and sentenced to death. He was executed in 2002.

71

Statement of Facts, State v. Reneau, No. AP-72,812, at Vol. 20: 11–12.

Statement of Facts, State v. Reneau, No. AP-72,812, at Vol. 20: 44. See also Statement of Facts, State v. Reneau, No. AP-72,812, at Vol. 22: 34 (“She’s telling the truth under
oath and she has told the truth ….”).
72

Statement of Facts, State v. Reneau, No. AP-72,812, at Vol. 19: 154 (testimony by
Nadia Mireles that Reneau had threatened to kill her and her daughter if she ever told anybody what he was doing).
73

74

Statement of Facts, State v. Reneau, No. AP-72,812, at Vol. 22: 11

75

Statement of Facts, State v. Reneau, No. AP-72,812, at Vol. 22: 31-32.

9

Jeffery Wood’s Trial
At Wood’s pre-trial bond hearing, an investigating officer testified that Wood
had no prior felonies and no prior history of violent crime. Nevertheless, Wood’s
bond was set at $350,000. The Fourth Court of Appeals found this to be excessive
and reduced it to $50,000, in part on the basis of its finding that Wood was “not a
danger to the victim or community.”76
Also before trial, the court found sufficient doubt about Wood’s competency to
stand trial to warrant a jury trial. Evidence from the competency hearing reflected
that Wood was functioning academically at an elementary school level in reading
and spelling.77 A neuropsychologist concluded that Wood was unable to appreciate
the risks of conviction or rationally aid in his defense due to delusional and paranoid thinking that caused him to reject out of hand the possibility that he could be
found guilty of capital murder. The neuropsychologist testified that Wood had “a delusional system” which caused him to be unable to grasp “the reality surrounding the
issues specific to this case” and his role in it.78 Wood’s lawyer also testified at the
hearing that Wood had “a delusional thought process that affects his ability to appreciate culpability.”79 He perceived his lawyer as part of a conspiracy that was
forming against him.80 Wood opposed his lawyers’ raising his competency to stand
trial as an issue “based on his delusion that he is going to be absolved at trial.”81 The
jury found him incompetent to stand trial.
After this verdict, Wood was committed to the Texas Department of Mental
Health and Mental Retardation at Vernon State Hospital for a period not to exceed
18 months.82 Although he was immediately flagged by a nurse as having delusional
thought processes, he was deemed competent just 15 days after being admitted.83
The records from the hospital reflect that evaluators noted difficulty with Wood’s
ability to communicate rationally, especially with respect to his case. Wood did not
receive any treatment at the facility. The discharge decision was based on Wood’s
passing of competency training materials that tested Wood’s factual understanding
of legal proceedings, but not his rationality or ability to communicate with counsel.84 After Wood was discharged, a second competency hearing was held. A neuro76

Ex parte Wood, 952 S.W.2d 41, 43 (Tex. App.—San Antonio 1997).

77

State’s Exhibit No. 1, First Competency Trial.

78

5 RR 138–39.

79

5 RR 183.

80

5 RR 187.

81

5 RR 188.

82

1 CR 80–81.

83

App. 6 (Excerpt of Vernon State Hospital Records).

84

Defendant’s Exhibit No. 1, Second Competency Hearing.

10

psychologist maintained that Wood’s delusional thinking and inability to rationally
consult with his counsel about his case had remained unchanged.85 Moreover, nothing in the Vernon State Hospital records suggested to the neuropsychologists that
doctors there had evaluated Wood in any manner that would have brought his delusional system to the fore.86 Nevertheless, a jury found him competent and his trial
began.
Although the State had relied upon Wood’s girlfriend Mireles to testify about
important events leading up to the offense, including Reneau’s dominating influence, his frustration and determination to obtain the safe from the Texaco, and
threats made to harm her and her child, the State did not call her in its case against
Wood.87 Instead, it relied primarily on Bunker’s testimony and Wood’s uncounseled
custodial statements as evidence of his liability as a party.
Wood’s counsel sought to present three witnesses to establish two defenses:
(1) that Wood himself backed out of any conspiracy to steal money from the Texaco;
and (2) that Wood participated under duress due to threats by Reneau to kill Wood’s
daughter and girlfriend if he did not help him. First, the defense called Wood’s girlfriend, Nadia Mireles. The defense sought to present the same testimony the State
had elicited in Reneau’s earlier trial: that, before Reneau and Wood left on the
morning of the shooting, Wood had told Reneau not to bring any firearms; that
Wood had told Reneau they were not going to go through with taking the money but
were just going to return the truck to Wood’s brother; and that Reneau had pretended to leave the firearm, only retrieving it after Wood had exited the trailer.88 Even
though it had previously vouched for the veracity and reliability of Mireles’s testimony, the State now objected to that same testimony on hearsay grounds.89 The
court excluded the statement.
Second, trial counsel also sought to present testimony from Linette Esensee.
She was at Wood’s trailer when Wood and Reneau returned after the robbery and
would have testified that Wood told her Reneau had threatened to kill his daughter
and girlfriend “if he did not go along with it.”90 Although the State understood
Reneau to threaten the people he brought with him to commit crimes, and present85

7 RR 195–96.

86

7 RR 203.

During Reneau’s trial the prosecutor told the jury during closing argument, “Well,
let me tell you, ladies and gentlemen, if Nadia Mireles is lying to help Jeff, as [Reneau’s
lawyer] infers [sic] here, she didn’t do a very good job, because she will be on that stand
when we try Jeff Wood, because she puts him right in the middle of the capital murder . . .
.” Statement of Facts, State v. Reneau, No. AP-72,812, at Vol. 20: 44.
87

88

25 RR 88.

89

25 RR 89.

90

25 RR 100.

11

ed such evidence in the trial against Reneau, the State again sought to exclude the
testimony on hearsay grounds. The court excluded the statement.91
Finally, the defense also tried to present the testimony of a neuropsychologist
that Wood was not a person of reasonable firmness.92 The court excluded the testimony as not legally relevant.93 Thus, no defense case was presented to the jury.
Charged with a parties instruction that permitted it to find Wood responsible for
the conduct of Reneau, the jury returned a guilty verdict on the capital murder
charge.
Wood was unable to reconcile his delusions that he could not be convicted
with the reality of the guilty verdict, causing him to break down. He asked to discharge his lawyers and proceed pro se immediately after the verdict. When the trial
court expressed hesitancy about allowing Wood to proceed without representation,
Wood expressed his desire to cease defending himself: “I ain’t going to cross-examine
nobody. I’m just going to let them do what they want. They can call anybody they
want. I’m not going to ask them any questions.”94
The court denied Wood’s request to represent himself because it believed him
insufficiently mentally competent to do so.95 The next day, after Wood filed a formal
motion seeking the same, the court again denied it. The court said,
Based on the testimony I’ve heard about your educational background
and your experience with the criminal justice system, I’m of the opinion
that you still need to have counsel with you that you could ask questions of and make sure that you know what’s going on and that you’re
not taken advantage of by this proceeding, so I note that you have requested to represent yourself and I’m going to deny that request and
continue these gentlemen as your counsel . . . . 96
Although the trial judge ruled Wood too mentally incompetent to represent himself,
the court failed to inquire into Wood’s broader competency to proceed to sentencing.
Instead, the proceeding continued unabated, and although Wood’s counsel had not
91

25 RR 105.

92

25 RR 115.

93

25 RR 118.

94

26 RR 51.

26 RR 52 (“I don’t feel comfortable with you understanding all the concepts of
what’s going on . . . .”). In doing so, the trial judge anticipated the Supreme Court’s ruling in
Indiana v. Edwards, 554 U.S. 164 (2008). The Edwards Court held that “the Constitution
permits States to insist upon representation by counsel for those competent enough to
stand trial under Dusky [v. United States, 362 U.S. 402 (1960),] but who still suffer from
severe mental illness to the point where they are not competent to conduct trial proceedings
by themselves.” Id. at 178.
95

96

30 RR 10.

12

been removed or made stand-by counsel, they followed Wood’s irrational requests
and refrained from cross-examining any of the State’s witnesses and from presenting any evidence on his behalf.
During the sentencing proceeding, the State presented the extraneous robbery that Daniel Reneau committed on November 30.97 It also presented the testimony of psychiatrist James Grigson. Grigson had “earned the nickname of ‘Dr. Death’
because of the number of times he ha[d] testified on behalf of the State at the punishment stage of a capital murder trial and the number of times the jury has returned affirmative answers to the submitted special issues.” Bennett v. State, 766
S.W.2d 227, 231–32 (Tex. Crim. App. 1989) (Teague, J., dissenting). When testifying
for the State, Grigson always testified that the defendant “certainly” or “absolutely” or
“with 100% certainty” would commit future acts of violence.98
In 1988, the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office created a report analyzing the behavior of eleven death-sentenced persons from Dallas County who had
had their sentence commuted to a life sentence or a term of years.99 Grigson had
testified in nine of the cases that the individual “certainly” would be dangerous in the
future. The report reflected that almost all of these individuals had little to no disciplinary infractions in prison.
For example, Grigson had testified in William Hovila’s capital trial that
Hovila is “as severe a sociopath as you can be. He is extremely severe and he is extremely dangerous.”100 He further testified that, if given an opportunity, Hovila “abso30 RR 16–38. The evidence the State presented did not establish any criminal liability beyond a reasonable doubt attributable to Wood for this crime. The only evidence of
Wood’s involvement was his custodial statement that he dropped Reneau off at the store
and picked him back up 15 minutes later. 30 RR 36–37. Wood did not receive any proceeds
from Reneau’s robbery. Id. The State also presented allegedly overheard discussions in the
jail between Wood and Reneau about escaping, 30 RR 40–44, but these alleged discussions
about escaping were not remotely credible or serious.
97

98

When Grigson died in 2004, the Houston Chronicle wrote about him,

Nicknamed “Dr. Death" for his willingness to testify against capital murder
defendants, Grigson was a witness in hundreds of death penalty cases. His
pleasant manner, down-to-earth vocabulary and air of certainty helped persuade juries that the defendant -- just about every defendant -- would kill
again if given the chance. That Grigson often had not met with the defendant
did not deter him from forming an opinion about him and defending it to the
hilt.
Mike Tolson, Effect of “Dr. Death” and His Testimony Lingers, HOU. CHRON., June 17, 2004
(available at http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/article/Effect-of-Dr-Death-and-histestimony-lingers-1960299.php) (last visited July 29, 2016).
99

App. 7 (Kinne Report Re: Status of Inmates with Commuted Sentences).

100

Statement of Facts, State v. Hovila, No. AP-56,989, at 343.

13

lutely” will kill again.101 The report reflected that Hovila had no disciplinary violations and “[a]pproaches the model inmate category.”102 Grigson testified in James
Pierson’s capital murder trial that Pierson would “present a continuing threat no
matter where they would be, whatever society they would be in, a penal institution
or outside the free world.”103 The report reflected that Pierson was “in a minimum
custody facility and is no problem.”104 Grigson testified in Anderson Hughes’s case
that Hughes “will only continue his previous behavior and pose a very serious threat
to the lives of other human beings.”105 The report described Hughes as “the cream of
the crop.”106
Grigson also testified in the capital murder trial of Randall Adams. Adams
was found guilty of killing a police officer and sentenced to death. Adams’s only
criminal record at the time Grigson made his prediction was a conviction for driving
while intoxicated.107 Nevertheless, Grigson testified, “I would place Mr. Adams at
the very extreme, worse or severe end of the scale. You can’t get beyond that. . . .
There is nothing known in the world today that is going to change this man; we
don’t have anything.”108 The report described Adams as “[a]n ideal inmate.”109 He was
subsequently exonerated and lived the rest of his life without any criminal record.
The report was sent to Grigson by First Assistant Dallas County District Attorney
Jeff Shaw in 1988.
In 1993, the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) district branch, the
Texas Society of Psychiatric Physicians’ (TSPP) Ethics Committee, began an investigation into Grigson’s forensic psychiatric practice. It concluded that Grigson’s practice of predicting future dangerousness and testimony in capital cases violated Section 1 and Section 2, Annotation 3 of The Principles of Medical Ethics With Annotations Especially Applicable to Psychiatry.110 Section 1 provided, “A physician shall be
dedicated to providing competent medical service with compassion and respect for
human dignity.” Section 2 provided, “A physician shall deal honestly with patients
and colleagues, and strive to expose those physicians deficient in character or competence, or who engage in fraud or deceptions.” Annotation 3 provided, “A psychia101

Statement of Facts, State v. Hovila, No. AP-56,989, at 358.

102

App. 7 at 2.

103

Statement of Facts, State v. Pierson, No. AP-63,437, at 950.

104

App. 7 at 3.

105

Statement of Facts, State v. Hughes, No. AP-51,827, at 2562.

106

App. 7 at 3.

107

Adams v. State, 577 S.W.2d 717, 731 (Tex. Crim. App. 1979).

108

Statement of Facts, State v. Adams, No. AP-60,037, at 1410.

109

App. 7 at 2.

110

App. 8 (American Psychiatric Association News Release, July 20, 1995).

14

trist who regularly practices outside his/her area of professional competence should
be considered unethical.” Its report concluded that the Society was required to act
against Grigson because “a willfully narrow rendition of psychiatric knowledge misleads and distorts the judicial system’s understanding of the substantial, but not absolute, insights a comprehensive medical, psychiatric approach could offer for evaluating the presence of mental illness and it[s] possible future impact [o]n accused
defendants.”111
Specifically, the investigation faulted Grigson “for arriving at a psychiatric diagnosis without first having examined the individuals in question, and for indicating, while testifying in court as an expert witness, he could predict with 100% certainty that the individuals would engage in future violent acts.”112 As well, the TSPP
Ethics Committee concluded that the hypothetical questions on which Grigson
based predictions were “grossly inadequate to elucidate a competent medical, psychiatric differential diagnostic understanding adequate for diagnosing a mental illness according to current standards.”113 Following investigation and hearing, the
TSPP imposed a sanction of expulsion from the organization.114 The APA thereafter
reviewed and affirmed the TSPP’s decision. On July 8, 1995, the APA Board of Trustees voted to expel Grigson from the APA and TSPP in order to help protect psychiatry’s perception “as a highly ethical and trustworthy profession.”115
Grigson did not testify in Daniel Reneau’s trial, but the government retained
his services in Wood’s. The State added Grigson to its witness list well after the date
by which the court had ordered the parties to disclose their expert witnesses. It was
a last-minute decision, made by the State in view of its otherwise weak case for
death against Wood. Wood’s attorneys objected to the late notice, but the trial court
nevertheless allowed the State to present his testimony to the jury.116
Without cross-examination or objection, Grigson testified that he had examined “close to about 500 individuals that have criminal charges against them a year;”
that he had “examined over 14,000 that had criminal charges against them” in total;
App. 9 (Summary Report of Ethics Complaint Investigation, Hearing, Deliberation and Decision of the Texas Society of Psychiatric Physicians, Sep. 12, 1993).
111

112

App. 8.

113

App. 8.

App. 10 (Letter from George Pazdral, M.D., J.D., Chair of TSPP Ethics Committee, to James Grigson, Apr. 11, 1994).
114

Id. According to psychiatrist James L. Knoll IV, “[Grigson’s] example lives on,
most notably every year at the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law Review
Course, where videos of his testimony are shown to aspiring forensic psychiatrists to teach
them about unethical practices.” James L. Knoll IV, Death’s Conviction, Psychiatric Times,
Mar.
12,
2010
(available
at
http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/forensicpsychiatry/death%E2%80%99s-conviction) (last visited July 29, 2016).
115

116

24 RR 20–43.

15

that he had “examined over 1,400 that was [sic] charged with murder;” that he had
“examined…either 404 or 405 that have been charged with capital murder;” that
“[e]ighty-five percent of the examinations [he does] are at the request of the various
judges;” that he had testified in criminal trials “probably over 4,000 times;” and that
he had “testified in 163 capital murder cases.”117 Grigson further testified that in “forty some-odd percent” of the capital defendants he had “examined,” he had found them
not to constitute a continuing threat.118 Thus, he told the jury, he “state[s] [his] honest opinion irrespective of . . . whether it’s going to be favorable to the State or to the
defense.”119
With the doctor’s experience represented to the lay jurors to be vast and his
objectivity beyond dispute, the prosecutor posed to Grigson a hypothetical that laid
out the “facts” of the offense.120 Following the hypothetical, the prosecutor asked,
“Now, is the hypothetical I have given you thorough enough for you to form an opinion on whether or not that individual in that hypothetical would be a future danger
to society because there is a probability that he will commit criminal acts of violence
that would constitute a continuing threat to society?”121 Knowing that the scientific
consensus of his profession in 1998 was that the truthful answer to this question
was “no,” Grigson answered, simply, “Right, it’s sufficient.”122 When asked what his
opinion was, Grigson violated his profession’s ethics and falsely answered, “That the
individual you described will most certainly commit future acts of violence and does
represent a threat to society.”123 The prosecutor next asked Grigson whether it was
necessary as an expert testifying on the issue of future dangerousness to examine a
defendant personally.124 Although he had been expelled from professional associations for doing just that, Grigson answered, “No, if you can get sufficient amount of
information in a hypothetical, then you can make an opinion.”125
No cross-examination of Grigson occurred, and the State did not elicit from
Grigson the fact that, at the time of his testimony, he had been expelled from professional associations for testifying to psychiatric opinions about an individual’s future dangerousness based on a hypothetical question and to a certainty. After
Grigson’s testimony, the State rested. The defense then rested without presenting a

117

30 RR 59.

118

30 RR 71.

119

30 RR 72.

120

30 RR 61–67.

121

30 RR 67–68.

122

30 RR 68.

123

Id.

124

30 RR 71.

125

Id.

16

case. The jury answered the special issues in a way that required a judgment imposing death.
REASONS TO GRANT MERCY
I.

Jeffery Wood Has Never Killed, or Even Physically Injured, Anybody
and He Has No Violent Criminal History or Violent Disciplinary Infractions in Prison

Capital punishment is supposed to be “limited to those offenders who commit
a narrow category of the most serious crimes and whose extreme culpability makes
them the most deserving of execution.” It is unconstitutional to execute “one . . . who
aids and abets a felony in the course of which a murder is committed by others but
who does not himself kill, attempt to kill, or intend that a killing take place or that
lethal force will be employed.” Enmund v. Florida, 458 U.S. 782, 797 (1982). There is
one exception for a person who is a major participant in a murder and who is so
recklessly indifferent to human life as to be considered as culpable as one who has
the specific intent to kill another person. Tison v. Arizona, 481 U.S. 137 (1987). The
undersigned firmly believe that nobody in the history of the modern death penalty
has been executed nationally whose culpability and participation in a homicide is as
little as Mr. Wood’s. In that respect, Mr. Wood’s execution will mark a national first.
According to information from the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC),
in the modern death penalty era, Texas has executed eight individuals who did not
directly take human life.126 Three of these, however, were people who contracted
others to commit murder, and thus their intent to kill was clear. The five other cases include Doyle Skillern, G.W. Green, Carlos Santana, Jessie Gutierrez, and Robert Thompson. All were active, and armed, participants in their offenses that resulted in the death of another.127 Nationally, the DPIC cites only five other individuals have been executed who did not directly take human life (other than contract
killings). Like the Texas cases, each involved active participation in the events that
led to the death. Counsel for Wood are aware of no person who has ever been put to
death in the nation with as tangential participation in the loss of life as Wood.
In the modern era, this Board has recommended a commutation of sentence
in two other capital cases in which the applicant had not directly taken human life.
In 2007, the Board recommended that the Governor grant a commutation of sentence from death to life to Kenneth Foster. Foster drove three companions while the
group looked for “easy prey” to rob at gunpoint. The first victim was a Hispanic woman. One of the companions, Mauriceo Brown, pointed a gun at her while another
See Death Penalty Information Center, “Those Executed Who Did Not Directly
Kill the Victim,” available at http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/those-executed-who-did-notdirectly-kill-victim (last visited July 29, 2016).
126

127

In some cases, it remains unclear which participant actually caused the death.

17

punched her in the eye. They took her purse and ran back to the car. Foster was
given a share of the money, and the four preceded to find a second victim. They
found a group of three people, whom Brown and another of the companions again
robbed at gunpoint.
Following these two robberies, Foster continued to drive his companions
around looking for more people to rob. At a gas station, Foster spotted two mustang
automobiles leaving together. He followed the cars for approximately five minutes
until they pulled into a residence. A man and a woman exited the cars and the
woman approached Foster’s car to see who was following them. After the woman left
the car and walked back towards the residence, the man gestured obscenely towards Foster’s car. Brown exited the Foster vehicle at that point, pointed the gun at
the man and demanded his wallet and keys. Brown shot the man, who died. At the
punishment phase of trial, the prosecution presented evidence showing “Foster’s admission to being a member in a . . . violent[] street gang;”“Foster’s involvement in the
nearly-fatal shooting of two individuals” in which “Foster, without provocation, fired
several shots into [a] vehicle [with three occupants], striking two of the occupants . .
. and seriously wounding one of them;” and “Brown and Foster’s mutual involvement
in the armed car-jacking and robbery of a tourist in downtown San Antonio a day or
two before the LaHood murder.”128 Brown and Foster were tried jointly, and both
were sentenced to death.
In 2009, the Board again recommended a commutation of sentence for Robert
Thompson. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals described the facts of Thompson’s
case:
The State’s evidence at trial showed that [Thompson] and Sammy Butler acted together in planning [an] armed robbery at the 7–Evenings
Food Store. [Thompson] told Butler that this would be their last robbery and it was going to be “a big one.” [Thompson], armed with a .25
caliber semiautomatic weapon, went into the convenience store to exchange a beer he had purchased earlier. Butler, armed with a .38 caliber revolver, came into the store with him.
[Thompson] approached Mubarakali Meredia, who was tending the
counter, pointed his pistol at Mr. Meredia, and told him to open the
cash register and hand over all of the money. [Thompson] shot Mr.
Meredia in the abdomen when he did not move quickly enough. He
shot at Mr. Meredia's cousin, Mansor Bhai Rahim Mohammed, who also worked at the shop, when he began running toward the back of the
store. [Thompson] then shot Mr. Meredia three more times as he lay on
the floor. He ordered Mr. Meredia to get up and get the money for him.
Mr. Meredia did so. Then [Thompson] put his pistol to Mr. Meredia’s
neck and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened. He had run out of bulMemorandum Opinion, Foster v. Dretke, No. 02-cv-00301, slip op. at 8–10 & n.16
(W.D. Tex. Mar. 3, 2005).
128

18

lets. So [Thompson] hit Mr. Meredia on the head with the butt of his
gun and struck him with the cash register drawer. Nonetheless, Mr.
Meredia survived.
[Thompson] took the money and ran out of the store. Butler grabbed a
stack of lottery tickets as he followed behind [Thompson]. [Thompson]
jumped into the driver’s seat of their car, while Butler got into the passenger’s seat, rolled down his window, and fired two shots at Mr.
Rahim who had run to the front door. One bullet hit Mr. Rahim in the
chest, and he died.129
Moreover, “Penalty phase testimony showed that the victim’s murder was the last
event in a week-long robbery/murder spree. In that one week, Thompson had killed
two other men while robbing convenience stores. Thompson confessed to those murders as well as to several aggravated robberies.”130 Thompson received a death sentence, but Butler was found guilty only of murder, not capital murder, and sentenced to a term of years.
By any measure, Jeffery Wood’s culpability and deathworthiness is no greater
than either Foster’s or Thompson’s. Wood had no criminal record and no history of
violence. No evidence was presented at Wood’s trial that Wood ever armed himself,
not just during the underlying capital offense, but at any time in his life. There is no
evidence that he has ever directly physically harmed any other human being in his
entire life, or is even capable of doing so.
II.

Jeffery Wood Is a Severely Impaired Individual Who Was Acting Under the Influence and Domination of Daniel Reneau

Jeffery Wood was not involved in any criminal activity until the day Daniel
Reneau entered his life. Because of his academic, intellectual, and emotional impairments, he struggled to maintain employment, but he lived with his long-term
girlfriend and the child they had together.131 He did not abuse alcohol and did not
do drugs.132 He was, as his step-mother described him, an “eight-year-old in a man’s
body.”133
The prosecution itself understood Reneau’s entering the picture as the impetus for and director of the criminal activity that happened in the run-up to the convenience store robbery. It told Reneau’s jury,
129

Ex parte Thompson, 179 S.W.3d 549, 551 (Tex. Crim. App. 2005) (footnotes omit-

130

Thompson v. Quarterman, 629 F. Supp. 2d 665, 681 (S.D. Tex. 2007).

131

App. 4.

132

App. 4.

133

App. 1.

ted).

19

It’s amazing to me that Jeff Wood []is being blamed [by Reneau’s lawyer] for all this stuff, and yet you heard the witnesses. You have seen
the time frame. …When did all this criminal conduct begin? It just happens to begin when Daniel Earl Reneau enters the picture. Now, it’s
always everybody else’s fault. They drag [Reneau] in and did it, but
none of these crimes were happening. You heard Toledo say, “I don’t
remember anyone doing all this stuff until Reneau shows up,” and then
the little crime wave begins.…Wood apparently was [not] doing that
stuff until Reneau shows up and after that two months of Reneau coming into the picture, bam, bam, bam, burglary, burglary, burglary, robbery, murder. What’s the common equation?134
It also understood that Reneau intimidated and threatened those he wrangled into
participating in crimes, telling Reneau’s jury, “[Reneau] knows right from wrong and
he knew the consequences of his actions. That’s why he threatened several people.
He threatened to kill them if they ever turned him into the police.”135 Wood, too, was
threatened by Reneau, and not just him; Reneau also threatened to kill his girlfriend and young daughter.136
Moreover, Jeffery Wood’s emotional and intellectual impairments made him
uniquely vulnerable to an individual like Reneau. ity to an individual like Reneau
was not known by the jury that sentenced him to death. Thus, it could not meaningfully assess his individual moral culpability for Keeran’s death. The Board should
take this into account when determining whether Mr. Wood’s life should be spared.
III.

The Jury’s Sentencing Verdict Is Not a Reliable Individualized Determination
of
Jeffery
Wood’s
Moral
Culpability
and
Deathworthiness

Because of the breakdown in the adversarial process during Wood’s trial, the
jury was not given any meaningful opportunity to sentence Wood to life. The verdict
was rendered based on a wholly one-sided presentation by the prosecution.
1.

Jeffery Wood Was Incompetent to Stand Trial at Sentencing,
Causing a Breakdown of the Adversarial Process, But the
Court Never Inquired Further

Jeffery Wood’s susceptibility to reality-distorting mental illness was first observed by mental health professionals when he was a child. A school psychologist
even recommended that corporal punishment not be used against him because “this
134

Statement of Facts, State v. Reneau, No. AP-72,812, at Vol. 22: 31-32.

135

Statement of Facts, State v. Reneau, No. AP-72,812, at Vol. 22: 11

136

25 RR 100; Statement of Facts, State v. Reneau, No. AP-72,812, at Vol. 19: 154–

55.

20

will only make Jeff feel more helpless” and hence lose contact with reality. Teachers
were recommended to provide Wood with alternatives, because “Jeff tends to narrow
his focus when upset. Discussions during these times will likely be fruitless.” Finally,
the psychologist noted that, without appropriate help, Wood was “at risk for developing more serious difficulties.”
Wood’s defense counsel retained neuropsychologist Michael Roman before trial to evaluate Wood’s cognitive and neurobehavioral functioning. In the course of his
evaluation, Dr. Roman came to believe that Wood possessed significant impairments in reasoning and rationality that impacted his competency to stand trial.
Specifically, Dr. Roman concluded that Wood had developed delusional beliefs that
affected his ability to appreciate his potential culpability and which rendered him
unable to rationally aid in his own defense. A Kendall County jury subsequently
found Wood incompetent and he was ordered committed to Vernon State Hospital.
There he was deemed competent after just 15 days, without having received any
treatment. The discharge decision was based on Wood’s mastery of competency
training materials that tested Wood’s factual understanding of legal proceedings,
but not his rationality.137
After Wood’s discharge by Vernon State Hospital, the trial court held a second
competency hearing. Notwithstanding that Wood’s discharge was primarily based on
a competency interview and test that only inquired about Wood’s factual understanding of the proceedings, a Bexar County jury found Wood competent to stand
trial.
Following trial on the merits, the jury returned a guilty verdict. Wood was
unable to reconcile his delusional thinking that it was not possible for him to be
found guilty with the reality that a jury had just done so, and he broke down. Incapable of processing what had happened, Wood ceased participating in the trial altogether. He attempted to proceed pro se, and, when the state court judge found Wood
too mentally incompetent to represent himself, Wood directed his lawyers to do
nothing, to cross-examine no witnesses, present no witnesses, and make no arguments. Bowing to Wood’s irrational direction, Wood’s appointed lawyers declined to
cross-examine any witnesses or present any evidence on Wood’s behalf.
In Drope v. Missouri, 420 U.S. 162, 171 (1975), the Court reiterated the constitutional prohibition against trying incompetent criminal defendants: “It has long
been accepted that a person whose mental condition is such that he lacks the capacity to understand the nature and object of the proceedings against him, to consult
with counsel, and to assist in preparing his defense may not be subjected to a trial.”
Wood’s irrational decision not to defend himself following the guilty verdict flowed
directly from the delusions Wood held and that a jury had previously determined
caused him to be unable to rationally understand the proceedings against him or
aid in his own defense at the guilt stage. Wood’s behavior was fully consistent with
137

7 RR Defendant’s Competency Exhibit 1.

21

observations made about Wood when he was child that physical punishment “will
only make Jeff feel more helpless,” and cause his already loose contact with reality to
break even further. As the school psychologist noted, “Discussions [with Wood] during these times will likely be fruitless.”
Dr. Roman was present when the guilty verdict was returned against Wood
and when Wood sought to dismiss his lawyers and represent himself. Wood’s behavior “reaffirmed [his] earlier opinion that Mr. Wood was incompetent to stand trial
and that his competency to assist counsel in his defense had not been restored.”138 It
is Dr. Roman’s opinion that Wood was not competent during sentencing.
Given all of the evidence that had emerged from the competency proceeding,
both Wood’s counsel as well as the court should have recognized the irrationality of
Wood’s behavior and attributed it to his complex mental health. But neither Wood’s
lawyers nor the trial court halted the proceeding in order to make an inquiry into
Wood’s continued competency to stand trial at this point in the proceeding. The result was a sentencing proceeding in which only one side participated: the State.
2.

As a Result of the Breakdown of the Adversarial Process, the
Jury Had No Choice But to Answer the Special Issues in the
Manner They Did

As a result of Wood’s mental breakdown, and the failure of the system to inquire into his competency, the jury had no choice but to answer the special issues in
the State’s favor, which in turn left the court no choice but to sentence Wood to
death. After the trial, one juror stated that “no one on the jury wanted to convict
Wood and sentence him to die,” but in light of the one-sided nature of the proceeding,
“the questions posed to the jury by the State in the punishment phase gave us no alternative but to ask for the death penalty.”139 Another juror believes that “[t]he 3
questions asked of the jury in the sentencing phase allowed little wiggle room” and
that “[p]unishment was out of the jury’s hands.”140 Yet another believes, “During the
deliberations, the law was presented to the jury in a way which did not allow us to
vote for a life sentence.”141
3.

James Grigson’s Testimony Misled the Jury as to Wood’s Future Dangerousness

One reason the jury had no alternative but to answer the punishment phase
special issues in the manner they did was because of false and misleading testimony
138

App. 11 (Declaration of Michael A. Roman, Ph.D., Aug. 1, 2016).

139

App. 12 (Affidavit of Juror 4, Mar. 25, 2000).

140

App. 13 (Declaration of Juror 3, July 25, 2009).

141

App. 14 (Declaration of Juror 2, July 25, 2009).

22

from discredited psychiatrist James Grigson. Grigson’s testimony in Wood’s sentencing proceeding was false or materially misleading in five different respects. First,
Grigson’s testimony concerning his forensic experience, especially in capital cases,
was exaggerated and false. Second, Grigson’s testimony concerning his neutrality in
predicting future dangerousness was false. Third, Grigson’s testimony concerning
the certainty of his prediction was false. Fourth, Grigson testified falsely about his
ability to form a reliable psychiatric opinion based on a hypothetical question posed
to him. Finally, the omission of Grigson’s expulsion from the APA was materially
misleading.
A review of Grigson’s historical testimony reveals that his testimony in Wood’s
sentencing hearing concerning Grigson’s experience, neutrality, and certainty was
false. In the capital murder trial of Baby Ray Bennett in November 1985, Grigson
swore that he had examined about 176 capital murder defendants. Six months later, in Jackie Wayne Upton’s capital murder trial, Grigson swore that he had examined 162 defendants charged with capital murder. In October 1987, Grigson claimed
in David Stoker’s case to have examined 180–82 persons charged with capital murder. But just seven months later, Grigson testified in Hai Kein Vuong’s capital trial
and claimed he had examined “156 defendants charged with capital murder.” Thus,
between Mr. Stoker’s trial and Mr. Vuong’s, the total number of capital murder defendants examined mysteriously shrank by at least 24.
About eighteen months after Vuong’s trial, Grigson testified in Adolph Hernandez’s capital murder trial. This time, he testified under oath that he had conducted no fewer than 391 examinations of persons charged with capital murder. The
total number of examinations, by Grigson’s account, increased by 235 in a span of
eighteen months.142
In Wood’s capital murder trial in 1998, Grigson told the jury he had examined
“either 404 or 405” people charged with capital murder. Grigson’s purported experience was false in two respects. First, the number of evaluations that Grigson testified he had conducted was grossly exaggerated and misleading. Second, Grigson
rarely examined any of the capital defendants in the cases in which he was retained. In a 1994 deposition, Grigson testified that he had testified in about 90 cases since 1980, and that in those cases he did so by way of hypothetical and had not

When cross-examined about his inconsistent numbers in Jack Clark’s trial in
April 1991, Grigson tried to shed light on his numbers, stating “that the majority of those
exams (156) with capital murder came prior to 1981.” However, in a 1994 sworn deposition,
Grigson testified that he had only begun doing forensic psychiatric work full time since
1978. App. 15 at 13. And in March of 1978, Grigson testified in John Burks’s case that he
had evaluated just “50 or 60” capital murder defendants at that time, a number that was
itself likely greatly inflated in light of the relatively few capital murder prosecutions occurring during this period and the relatively rare use of expert witnesses at sentencing during
the era.
142

23

examined the defendant.143 Thus, Grigson’s testimony about his experience in “examining” capital defendants was false and misleading.
Remarkably, in most all cases in which Grigson testified, the number of defendants Grigson testified he had found not to constitute a future danger was always approximately 40% of the total examined. In Damon Richardson’s 1988 trial,
Grigson testified he had examined 187 defendants and had found 74 of them not to
be dangerous. Unsurprisingly, this is exactly 40%. But in Adolph Hernandez’s 1990
capital murder trial—the first trial in which Grigson is known to have boosted the
number of capital examinations he conducted dramatically upwards to 391—Grigson
testified that he had found just 70 persons not to be dangerousness, a percentage of
only 18%. Grigson forgot to inflate both numbers, resulting in a drastically reduced
percentage. He corrected the omission in the next case in which he testified. In Jose
Gutierrez’s case, Grigson increased the number of persons he had examined by one
to 392. This time, however, he testified he had found 158 persons not to be dangerous, a ratio of exactly 40%. Grigson’s testimony in Wood’s case that he had found “forty some-odd percent” of capital defendants he had examined not to constitute a continuing threat to society was false and designed to mislead the jury about his objectivity.
The following table reflects Grigson’s testimony about his experience and professed neutrality in various cases:
Case
Clark v. State,
No. AP-71,251
Talley v. State,
No. PD-1154-93
Gutierrez v. State,
No. AP-71,074
Hernandez v. State,
No. AP-71,083
Moody v. State,
No. AP-70,883
Richardson v. State,
No. AP-70,746
Vuong v. State,
No. AP-70,402
Stoker v. State,
No. AP-70,031
Banda v. State,
143

Date of Testimony

Number/Percent of
Capital Defendants
Found Not Dangerous
178 (46%)

Feb. 9, 1991

Number of Capital
Defendants Evaluated
388

May 29, 1990

393

Did not say

Apr. 16, 1990

392

158 (40%)

Feb. 2, 1990

391

70 (18%)

Feb. 28, 1989

189

Did not say

Oct. 5, 1988

187

74 (40%)

May 19, 1988

156

40%

Oct. 27, 1987

180-82

Mar. 24, 1987

170

App. 15 at 246 (Excerpt of 1994 Grigson Deposition)

24

Did not say
40%

No. AP-69,827
James v. State,
No. AP-69,653
Upton v. State,
No. AP-69,717
Bennett v. State,
No. AP-69,645
Holloway v. State,
No. AP-68,925
Burks v. State,
No. AP-70,971

July 24, 1986

170

Did not say

Apr. 28, 1986

162

42%

Nov. 4, 1985

176

85 (48%)

Sep. 1981

120

30 (40%)

Mar. 27, 1978

50 or 60

5 or 6 (10%)

Additionally, when testifying for the State, Grigson always testified that the
defendant “certainly” or “absolutely” or “with 100% certainty” would commit future acts
of violence. Grigson was well aware, however, that testimony to this level of certainty was both false and unethical. At the time of Wood’s trial, Grigson had been reprimanded once by, and then eventually expelled from, the APA specifically for testifying in this manner. In short, Grigson knew that medical science could not support
certitude in predictions of future behavior. Accordingly, his testimony that Wood
“certainly” would commit criminal acts of violence that would constitute a continuing
threat to society in the future was false.
In Summers v. Director, a federal district court in Texas found as a fact that
identical testimony from Grigson about his experience, neutrality, and certitude in
his prediction was false. Grigson testified in the Summers case in August of 1991.
There, he testified as he did in Wood’s case that he had examined “over 400” individuals charged with capital murder.144 He also testified that, of the “over 400” he had examined, he had determined that 180 of them (~40%) did not present a future danger.145 In that case as in Wood’s case, Grigson testified to his opinion that “certainly”
the defendant described by the prosecution’s hypothetical was going to commit future acts of violence.146 In view of the same information contained in this application, United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Texas Thad Heartfield
concluded in 2004:
[T]he Court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that Grigson’s
testimony was false in three respects: he exaggerated the number of
capital murder defendants he had examined, he inflated the number of
defendants he determined would not be likely to be dangerous in the
future, and he exaggerated the degree of his certainty that [the defendant] would be dangerous in the future. The Court also finds that
144

Statement of Facts, State v. Gregory Summers, No. AP-71,338, at Vol. 17: 91–92.

145

Statement of Facts, State v. Gregory Summers, No. AP-71,338, at Vol. 17: 100.

146

Statement of Facts, State v. Gregory Summers, No. AP-71,338, at Vol. 17: 97.

25

Grigson’s inflating the number of defendants he determined would not
likely be dangerous in the future was a conscious attempt to mislead
the jury as to his objectivity.147
Grigson also falsely testified concerning his ability to form a reliable psychiatric opinion based on a hypothetical question. Grigson testified that he could form
a psychiatric opinion about Wood’s future dangerousness “if you can get sufficient
amount of information in a hypothetical.” 30 RR 71. Grigson knew this to be false as
a matter of science. In his 1994 deposition, Grigson touted the credibility of the APA
as an organization. When asked why he had remained a member in the APA and
TSPP for 31 years, Grigson replied, “I always felt like that the APA was that specialty branch of medicine that reflected the . . . highest degree of individuals in psychiatry.”148 He also described it as the most elite psychiatric organization in the world.149
At the time he testified in Wood’s case, Grigson was aware of the reasons
stated by the APA and TSPP for his expulsion. Grigson received notice from the
TSPP in a letter dated April 11, 1994, that it had decided to impose a sanction of
expulsion for violations of Section 1 and Section 2, Annotation 3 of the The Principles of Medical Ethics With Annotations Especially Applicable to Psychiatry.150 The
letter included a copy of the TSPP Ethics Committee’s decision, which explained
that the decision was based on the manner in which Grigson made and testified
about predictions of future dangerousness. Specifically, the TSPP cited Grigson’s (1)
making psychiatric diagnoses without first having examined the individuals in
question; (2) giving testimony that he could predict with certainty that individuals
would engage in future violent acts; and (3) basing his predictions of future dangerousness on hypothetical questions that contained “grossly inadequate” information to
form a reliable psychiatric opinion.151
Finally, Grigson failed to inform the jury that he had been expelled from professional psychiatric organizations for engaging in exactly the kind of conduct he
did in Wood’s case. This omission misled the jury as to his forensic psychiatric competence and credibility. In his 1994 deposition, Grigson himself recognized that the
expulsion was relevant to his credibility as an expert.152
Memorandum Opinion at 34, Summers v. Director, No. 6:01-cv-00139-TH (E.D.
Tex. Mar. 4, 2004) (Docket No. 26) (internal citations omitted).
147

148

App. 15 at 22.

149

App. 15 at 33.

150

App. 10.

151

Id.

App. 15 at 72 (expulsion “weighed on the credibility of my testimony”); 128 (the
expulsion “hurt my credibility as an expert witness with the jury”); 136 (“the fact that
you’ve been reprimanded twice and you’ve been censured twice by the APA carries weight
with a jury”); 137 (expulsion “would hurt my credibility with jurors”).
152

26

Three jurors from Wood’s trial would have discounted Grigson’s testimony in a
manner affecting their deliberations had they known he testified falsely and misleadingly. Juror 1 has declared under oath that he “no longer agree[s]” that “Wood deserve the death penalty” because Grigson’s 1994 expulsion from the TSPP was “fatal
to his testimony.” The juror is “angered the D.A. put him on the stand” and “feel[s] the
government lied to the jury by presenting him as an expert.”153
Juror 2 believed that “[it] is terrible that Dr. Grigson was allowed to testify as
an expert witness to the future dangerousness” of Wood. “After hearing of his expulsion from the [TSPP], this discredits him as an expert.” Knowledge of this “would
have affected my deliberations.”154
Juror 3 has declared under oath that the inclusion of Grigson’s testimony “was
unfair due to his expulsion from the [TSPP]” and that “his incompetency as an expert
should have been presented.” Further, the special issues in light of the testimony “allowed little wiggle room” and “punishment was out of the jury’s hands.”155
4.

The Jury Did Not Hear Any Mitigating Information About Jeffery Wood’s Background, Mental Health, or Circumstances of
the Offense That Could Have Caused Them to Answer the AntiParties and Mitigation Special Issues Differently

Wood’s incompetency to stand trial caused, as one juror put it, punishment to
be “out of the jury’s hands.” Wood’s death sentence is not the product of the kind of individualized determination that the Supreme Court has required to protect against
the infliction of cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment.156
Absent the breakdown in the adversarial process, Wood’s jury would have learned
significant information that almost certainly would have caused it to spare Wood a
death sentence.
The jury was deprived of critical information when it answered the special
issues in Wood’s case. First, it was deprived of Mireles’s reliable information that
Wood had asked Reneau not to take a gun with him immediately before they returned to the Texaco and that they were not going to make any further effort to get
the safe. This information reflected Wood’s expectation that violence would not be
contemplated. Second, the jury was deprived of information that Reneau had a pattern of threatening to kill the individuals with whom he committed crimes. Third, it
was deprived of information that Reneau had threatened to kill Wood’s girlfriend
and child, specifically. Fourth, it was deprived of information about Wood’s intellec153

App. 16 (Declaration of Juror 1, July 25, 2009).

154

App. 14.

155

App. 13.

See Lockett v. Ohio, 438 U.S. 586, 605 (1978); Woodson v. North Carolina, 428
U.S. 280, 304 (1976).
156

27

tual, emotional and psychological impairments causing his vulnerability to Reneau’s
influence. Fifth, it was deprived of information about Wood’s impoverished and abusive childhood. Sixth, it was deprived of information concerning the expulsion of the
State’s future dangerous expert from professional psychiatric organizations that
would have discredited him. Seventh, it received perjured and unreliable testimony
from the State’s expert concerning his forensic experience; his neutrality in predicting future dangerousness; the certainty of his prediction; his ability to form a reliable psychiatric opinion based on a hypothetical question posed to him.
IV.

Jeffery Wood’s Execution Will Be Disproportionate to His Culpability

Ultimately, Wood’s execution will be greatly disproportionate to his culpability. Wood was enticed into a conspiracy by the assistant manager of the store. He
was told by the assistant manager (1) where the safe was; (2) approximately how
much money would accumulate in it over the holiday period; (3) when that accumulated money would be deposited; (4) and where the surveillance recording equipment was located. The manager agreed to a cut of money. He never expressly told
Wood or Reneau that he was not on board. As Kerrville Police Department Detective Harry Fleming wrote in his report, “[Bunker] could have prevented the death of
his friend.”157 Indeed, given his role in enticing Wood and Reneau into trying to obtain the safe, and his failure to disclaim participation, he is one of the proximate
causes of Keeran’s death. Yet Bunker was never prosecuted for capital murder. He
was not even criminally charged with any offense relating to his role in the conspiracy to obtain the store’s safe.
Wood may have participated—along with the store’s employees—in scheming
about how to obtain the store’s safe, but Wood’s impairments made him vulnerable
to Reneau and significantly diminished his capacity to appreciate and predict what
Reneau was capable of doing.
Courts have found the Eighth Amendment to bar the execution of people
whose culpability in homicides were greater than Wood’s. A summary of cases in
which courts have found defendants lacked the requisite culpability under Tison v.
Arizona, supra, is attached as Appendix 17.
V.

At Least Three Jurors Who Heard all the State’s Evidence Do Not
Support a Death Sentence Against Mr. Wood and Would Like to See
His Sentence Commuted to Life

Juror 1 has “often thought about the trial and what will happen to Jeffrey and
his family when the day of execution arrives.”158 Further, “With the knowledge of Dr.
157

App. 5.

158

App. 16.

28

Grigson’s testimony, I believe Jeffery Lee Wood should be granted clemency by the
State of Texas, and given life in prison. I no longer agree Jeffery Lee Wood deserves
the death penalty.”159 Juror 2 “do[es] not believe that Jeffery Lee Wood deserves the
death penalty.”160 She “believe[s] the State of Texas should commute his sentence to
that of life.”161 Juror 3 “would have no problem if the State found it appropriate to
commute [Wood’s] sentence to life.”162
CONCLUSION
Justice in this case does not require absolution for Mr. Wood, and we do not
ask it. But nor does it require his life.163 The undersigned respectfully request that
the Board recommend that Mr. Wood’s death sentence be commuted to life.
Respectfully submitted,

______________________
J. Scott Sullivan
Texas Bar No. 19483350
LAW OFFICES OF J. SCOTT SULLIVAN
22211 IH 10 W., Ste. 1206
San Antonio, Texas 78257
TEL: (210) 227-6000
ssullivan18@satx.rr.com

159

Id.

160

App. 14.

161

Id.

162

App. 13.

Jared Tyler
Texas Bar No. 24042073
TYLER LAW FIRM, PLLC
P.O. Box 764
Houston, Texas 77001
TEL: (832) 606-2302
jptyler@tylerlawfirm.org

Kris Keeran’s father has been reported to support a life sentence for Mr. Wood,
because he sees death as “the easy way out.” See Diane Jennings, Unusual group rallies
around
Texas
death
row
inmate
Jeff
Wood,
available
at
http://crimeblog.dallasnews.com/2008/08/unusual-group-rallies-around-t.html/ (last checked
July 31, 2016).
163

29