Monday, March 23, 2009

Death row inmate loses appeal on mental illness

From The AP:

HOUSTON – A Texas death row inmate who came within hours of execution has lost an appeal. His lawyers argued in a federal appeals court that he's too mentally ill to be put to death.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the appeal from Jeffery Wood, 35, condemned for the January 1996 slaying of Kriss Keeran at a convenience store in Kerrville, Texas.

Wood was convicted of capital murder even though he sat in the car outside while his roommate, Daniel Reneau, fatally shot Keeran, 31. Under Texas law, a participant in a capital murder is equally guilty of the crime. Both men then robbed the store, taking more than $11,000 in cash and checks.

Reneau was executed in 2002.

Wood was scheduled to die last August, but a federal judge delayed the lethal injection hours before the execution so Wood could be tested to determine whether he's mentally able to understand why he should be executed. He does not have an execution date.

In the appeal to the New Orleans-based appeals court, Wood's lawyers contended they needed a second expert to examine Wood.

"Mr. Wood lacks a rational understanding of his death sentence and of the reasons for his imminent execution," attorney Scott Sullivan said in his motion filed earlier this week.

Prosecutors argued Wood already had an expert "of his own choosing."

Last summer, Sullivan said in a motion that he met with Wood and that the prisoner told him he believed his trial judge was corrupt but would accept a $100,000 bribe and then deport him to Norway where he could live with his wife. Sullivan said Wood also believed the government will pay him $50,000 a year once he's released and that he's willing to give that money to the judge.

The U.S. Supreme Court has barred the execution of prisoners determined to be mentally disabled, but that protection has not extended to those with mental illness.