Texas court halts execution of man who didn't pull trigger

This undated photo provided by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice shows death row inmate Jeffery Wood. (Texas Department of Criminal Justice)

A court on Friday halted the execution of a Texas man who was scheduled to die for a fatal 1996 robbery in which he wasn't the person who pulled the trigger.

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

The case has drawn highly unusual opposition from Republican lawmakers. It has captured attention across the U.S. over his culpability in the shooting of a convenience store clerk, Wood's mental competence and criticism surrounding his original trial.

In a two-page opinion, the appeals court ruled 7-2 that the death sentence was based on false testimony and false scientific evidence.

One Republican legislator had formally asked the Texas Board of Pardon and Paroles to recommend commuting Wood's death sentence, and Republican state Rep. Jeff Leach said he is collecting a bipartisan set of signatures for a similar letter to be sent this weekend.

The pleas from GOP lawmakers are striking in Texas, which has the nation's busiest death penalty chamber.

Leach, who said he still supports capital punishment, is part of a Republican-controlled Legislature that has long made efforts by Democrats to abolish the death penalty a non-starter in Texas. But he says Wood doesn't deserve to die.

Wood and his friend, Daniel Reneau, were convicted in the shooting death of a 31-year-old store clerk during a robbery in the Texas Hill Country. Wood waited in a car while Reneau shot the clerk in the face, but Wood was still convicted of capital murder under what's known as the Texas law of parties, which makes a participant in a capital murder case equally culpable.

Leach, however, said that's not what troubles him. He instead points to concerns about Wood's mental competency and the handling of his trial. 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.
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