State Rep. Terry Canales Files Bill to Prohibit Law of Parties Death Sentences

2ab2e395e49a92feb1912fbe8c590c9eState Rep. Terry Canales has filed HB 316, a bill to prohibit death sentences in cases in which the defendant is convicted under the law of parties.  Last August 19, Rep. Canales sent a letter to Governor Greg Abbott supporting clemency for Jeff Wood, who was sentenced to death under the law of parties. Before Gov. Abbott could act on the clemency request, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted Wood a stay of execution. Wood remains under a death sentence pending further judicial action.

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85R2323 KJE-D
By: Canales H.B. No. 316
A BILL TO BE ENTITLED
AN ACT
relating to the extent of a defendant’s criminal responsibility for
the conduct of another in capital felony cases.
       BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:
       SECTION 1.  Section 1, Article 37.071, Code of Criminal
Procedure, is amended to read as follows:
       Sec. 1.  (a)  If a defendant is found guilty in a capital
felony case in which the state does not seek the death penalty, the
judge shall sentence the defendant to life imprisonment or to life
imprisonment without parole as required by Section 12.31, Penal
Code.
       (b)  A defendant who is found guilty in a capital felony case
only as a party under Section 7.02, Penal Code, may not be sentenced
to death, and the state may not seek the death penalty in any case in
which the defendant’s liability is based solely on that section.
       SECTION 2.  Sections 2(b), (c), (d), and (g), Article
37.071, Code of Criminal Procedure, are amended to read as follows:
       (b)  On conclusion of the presentation of the evidence, the
court shall instruct [submit the following issues to] the jury to
determine [:
             [(1)]  whether there is a probability that the
defendant would commit criminal acts of violence that would
constitute a continuing threat to society[; and
             [(2)     in cases in which the jury charge at the guilt or
innocence stage permitted the jury to find the defendant guilty as a
party under Sections 7.01 and 7.02, Penal Code, whether the
defendant actually caused the death of the deceased or did not
actually cause the death of the deceased but intended to kill the
deceased or another or anticipated that a human life would be
taken].
       (c)  The state must prove the [each] issue submitted under
Subsection (b) [of this article] beyond a reasonable doubt, and the
jury shall return a special verdict of “yes” or “no” on that [each]
issue [submitted under Subsection (b) of this Article].
       (d)  The court shall charge the jury that:
             (1)  in deliberating on the issue [issues] submitted
under Subsection (b) [of this article], it shall consider all
evidence admitted at the guilt or innocence stage and the
punishment stage, including evidence of the defendant’s background
or character or the circumstances of the offense that militates for
or mitigates against the imposition of the death penalty;
             (2)  it may not answer the [any] issue submitted under
Subsection (b) [of this article] “yes” unless it agrees unanimously
and it may not answer the [any] issue “no” unless 10 or more jurors
agree; and
             (3)  members of the jury need not agree on what
particular evidence supports a negative answer to the [any] issue
submitted under Subsection (b) [of this article].
       (g)  If the jury returns an affirmative finding on the [each]
issue submitted under Subsection (b) and a negative finding on the
[an] issue submitted under Subsection (e)(1), the court shall
sentence the defendant to death.  If the jury returns a negative
finding on the [any] issue submitted under Subsection (b) or an
affirmative finding on the [an] issue submitted under Subsection
(e)(1) or is unable to answer an [any] issue submitted under
Subsection (b) or (e), the court shall sentence the defendant to
confinement in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for life
imprisonment without parole.
       SECTION 3.  Section 2(e)(1), Article 37.071, Code of
Criminal Procedure, is amended to read as follows:
       (e)(1)  The court shall instruct the jury that if the jury
returns an affirmative finding to the [each] issue submitted under
Subsection (b), it shall determine whether [answer the following
issue:
       [Whether], taking into consideration all of the evidence,
including the circumstances of the offense, the defendant’s
character and background, and the personal moral culpability of the
defendant, there is a sufficient mitigating circumstance or
circumstances to warrant that a sentence of life imprisonment
without parole rather than a death sentence be imposed.
       SECTION 4.  Section 2, Article 37.0711, Code of Criminal
Procedure, is amended to read as follows:
       Sec. 2.  (a)  If a defendant is found guilty in a case in
which the state does not seek the death penalty, the judge shall
sentence the defendant to life imprisonment.
       (b)  A defendant who is found guilty in a capital felony case
only as a party under Section 7.02, Penal Code, may not be sentenced
to death, and the state may not seek the death penalty in any case in
which the defendant’s liability is based solely on that section.
       SECTION 5.  The change in law made by this Act applies to a
criminal proceeding that commences on or after the effective date
of this Act. A criminal proceeding that commences before the
effective date of this Act is governed by the law in effect when the
proceeding commenced, and the former law is continued in effect for
that purpose.
       SECTION 6.  This Act takes effect September 1, 2017.

Time to Bar the Execution of Law of Parties Accomplices Who Neither Kill or Intend to Kill

Joseph Trigilio and Tracy Casadio, both Deputy Federal Public Defenders in California wrote the following article, “Executing Those Who Do Not Kill.”

The authors argue that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Tison v. Arizona (1987) should be overturned. Tison allows the death penalty for certain non-triggermen if the defendant was a major participant in the underlying felony and acted with a reckless disregard for human life. According to the law review, the analysis in Tison has been overturned in other cases, “Tison leads a trilogy of cases, including Stanford v. Kentucky and Penry v. Lynaugh, that represent a sharp break from a tradition of careful scrutiny on proportionality that considers both objective and subjective criteria in determining whether a certain category of defendants is constitutionally eligible for a death sentence.” Both Stanford and Penry have been overturned, and the authors maintain that, “under the proportionality analysis articulated in Atkins v. Virginia, Roper v. Simmons, and Kennedy v. Louisiana, the contemporary ‘standards of decency’ require a further narrowing of death penalty eligibility for those who do not kill nor intend to kill.” The article concludes, “In 2009, the Court cemented the new proportionality paradigm in Kennedy, expressly basing its analysis on the framework of Roper, Atkins, Coker, and Enmund. In so doing, the Court abandoned Tison’s analytical framework as no longer authoritative. The time has come to overturn Tison and to bar the execution of felony-murder accomplices who neither kill nor intend to kill.”

Executing Those Who Do Not Kill

Rep Dutton Files Bill to Ban Death Sentences in Law of Parties Cases

duttonRep. Harold Dutton of Houston today filed HB 147, a bill to prohibit the death penalty for people convicted under the law of parties.

Jeff Wood received a stay of execution in August 2016 after many legislators expressed support by writing clemency letters to Gov. Greg Abbott. Wood received a stay of execution from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals pending further review.

State Reps Harold Dutton, Senfronia Thompson, Garnet Coleman, Alma Allen and Ron Reynolds Write Clemency Letter for Jeff Wood

State Representative Harold Dutton, who has sponsored a bill in the Legislatures to end the death penalty in law of parties cases, wrote a letter urging Governor Abbott and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to grant clemency to Jeff Wood. His bill was signed by four other state representatives: Senfronia Thompson, Garnet Coleman, Ron Reynolds and Alma Allen. Thank you to each of them for helping to save Jeff Wood.

State Rep Dutton's Clemency Letter for Jeff Wood by Scott Cobb on Scribd

An Unjust Execution Was Scheduled for Today, but Jeff Wood Will Not Die Today. Thank you!

2774010650_4c4466f887Today, August 24, 2016, was scheduled to be the day of Jeff Wood’s unjust execution in Texas. Many people were outraged that Texas sentenced him to death even though he did not kill anyone. His execution has been stayed, but he remains under a sentence of death. His case has been sent back to the trial court for further action. Right now, he remains on death row in the Polunsky Unit. Thank you to everyone who spoke out to stop his execution. Please sign the petition if you have not already done so.

We will continue to visit with members of the Texas Legislature to build support for passing a bill in 2017 to prohibit death sentences in law of parties cases. We hope you will join us on Lobby Day in the spring at the Texas Capitol.

Lobby Day 2015 Photo, Including Members of Jeff Wood’s Family

11012975_10105819400072480_7132263188736372594_n (1)Photo with Jeff Wood’s family on lobby day in 2015 in support of bill to end death penalty in law of parties cases. We visited all the offices of members of the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee asking them to support the bill, which did later pass the committee with votes in favor by Rep Jeff Leach, Rep David Simpson, Rep Abel Herrero, and Rep Terry Canales.

Also pictured are Rep Harold Dutton in back row, Mark Clements lower left. Terri Been, standing next to Ron Keine, Sabrina Butler left front of Dutton, Gloria Rubac, Lily Hughes, Kidsagainstthedeathpenalty Kadp back row, Delia Perez Meyer, Alison Dieter, Pat Hartwell. Photo by Scott Cobb.

Here is a report from the Austin American-Statesman on the successful lobby day, which was widely covered in the media, including the Dallas Morning News.

Another office we visited that day was Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr and asked him to file a bill in the Senate to abolish the death penalty, which he filed a couple of weeks later, the first time a state senator had ever filed legislation to completely abolish the death penalty in Texas.

Text of Court Order for Stay of Execution for Jeff Wood

The order includes a concurring opinion by Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Court Judge Elsa Alcala in which she says she would also grant relief on additional claims not granted by the opinion that stayed the execution of Jeff Wood.

“I write separately because I would also remand claims five, six, and seven, in which applicant alleges that his participation in the offense and his moral culpability are too minimal to warrant the death penalty, that evolving standards of decency now prohibit the execution of a person who was convicted as a party to a capital offense, and, more generally, that Texas’s death-penalty scheme should be declared unconstitutional because it is arbitrary and fails to target the worst of the worst offenders, in violation of the Eighth Amendment.”

Text of CCA Order Staying Execution of Jeffery Wood by Scott Cobb on Scribd

Stay of Execution for Jeff Wood

2774010650_4c4466f887Statement from Attorney for Jeff Wood in Response to Ruling by Texas Court of Criminal Appeals

“The court did the right thing by staying Mr. Wood’s execution and authorizing his claims related to Dr. Grigson’s false testimony during the sentencing phase to be considered on the merits. The man who committed murder 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. 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 psychiatrist had been expelled from the American Psychiatric Association and the Texas Society of Psychiatric Physicians for the same unethical conduct as he engaged in Mr. Wood’s case. The jurors no longer support a death sentence. Mr. Wood is grateful for the opportunity to prove that his death sentence is unwarranted.”

— Jared Tyler, Attorney for Jeff Wood
August 19,2016

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