Texarkana, TX 63° View Live Radar Thu H 68° L 48° Fri H 80° L 54° Sat H 83° L 61° Weather Sponsored By:

Shared Responsibility?: Too many questions for Texas to execute condemned man

Shared Responsibility?: Too many questions for Texas to execute condemned man

August 3rd, 2016 by Gazette Staff in Opinion Editorial

It was two decades ago that Jeff Wood stopped by a Texaco station in Kerrville, Texas. Nothing unusual in that. Wood frequently went to the station's convenience store, sometimes several times a day.

But this time would change his life.

A man named Danny Reneau—a friend of Wood—was robbing the store. And he had a gun.

He used the gun to kill the clerk, Kriss Keeran.

Wood came into the store where, he says, Reneau threatened him. Wood helped Reneau carry the store's safe outside.

The men were arrested. And Texas law allowed both to be charged with capital murder even though Wood did not kill anyone. The idea is that accomplices in a crime such as murder are equally guilty, even if only one pulled the trigger. The state believes they "should have known" what would happen.

Sounds like a gross miscarriage of justice at first glance. But there is more to this story.

You see, Reneau, Wood and another man—an employee of the store—had planned to rob the station the day before. 

But the third man backed out and Wood said he assumed the job was off. He claims he had no knowledge that Reneau was planning to go ahead and do it alone.

Didn't matter. Both men were convicted and sentenced to death. Reneau was executed in 2002. And Wood faces his date with the gurney later this month.

The case has drawn a lot of interest around the U.S. and from other countries as well. Texas is one of the few states where an accomplice to murder can receive the death penalty. Since 1976 only 10 people have been put to death in the U.S. in similar circumstances.

Wood may be telling the truth when he says he thought the robbery was off. Or, as the state maintained at trial, he might be lying and acted as a lookout or getaway driver. 

Either way, he should not be executed. The last time such a case came up in Texas, Gov. Rick Perry commuted the condemned man's sentence to life. It was the only time Perry ever chose to step in to stop an execution.

We think Gov. Greg Abbott should do the same. We can't say whether Wood was a willing participant that day in the robbery leading to murder. But we can say there are too many questions here for the state to put him to death.

And we think the Legislature should revisit the whole concept that all parties in a crime are equally guilty, no matter the level of participation. Punishment and deterrence have a place. But so does justice.

Getting Started/Comments Policy

Getting started

  1. 1. If you frequently comment on news websites then you may already have a Disqus account. If so, click the "Login" button at the top right of the comment widget and choose whether you'd rather log in with Facebook, Twitter, Google, or a Disqus account.
  2. 2. If you've forgotten your password, Disqus will email you a link that will allow you to create a new one. Easy!
  3. 3. If you're not a member yet, Disqus will go ahead and register you. It's seamless and takes about 10 seconds.
  4. 4. To register, either go through the login process or just click in the box that says "join the discussion," type your comment, and either choose a social media platform to log you in or create a Disqus account with your email address.
  5. 5. If you use Twitter, Facebook or Google to log in, you will need to stay logged into that platform in order to comment. If you create a Disqus account instead, you'll need to remember your Disqus password. Either way, you can change your display name if you'd rather not show off your real name.
  6. 6. Don't be a huge jerk or do anything illegal, and you'll be fine.

Texarkana Gazette Comments Policy

The Texarkana Gazette web sites include interactive areas in which users can express opinions and share ideas and information. We cannot and do not monitor all of the material submitted to the website. Additionally, we do not control, and are not responsible for, content submitted by users. By using the web sites, you may be exposed to content that you may find offensive, indecent, inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise objectionable. You agree that you must evaluate, and bear all risks associated with, the use of the Gazette web sites and any content on the Gazette web sites, including, but not limited to, whether you should rely on such content. Notwithstanding the foregoing, you acknowledge that we shall have the right (but not the obligation) to review any content that you have submitted to the Gazette, and to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content that we determine, in our sole discretion, (a) does not comply with the terms and conditions of this agreement; (b) might violate any law, infringe upon the rights of third parties, or subject us to liability for any reason; or (c) might adversely affect our public image, reputation or goodwill. Moreover, we reserve the right to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content at any time, for the reasons set forth above, for any other reason, or for no reason. If you believe that any content on any of the Gazette web sites infringes upon any copyrights that you own, please contact us pursuant to the procedures outlined in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (Title 17 U.S.C. § 512) at the following address:

Copyright Agent
The Texarkana Gazette
15 Pine Street
Texarkana, TX 75501
Phone: 903-794-3311
Email: webeditor@texarkanagazette.com