The legal system in the State of Texas has come under fire lately for their inconsistencies. Two recent cases highlight the unstable nature within the courts. The state takes a hard-line on criminals, but are citizens actually getting fair trials? San Antonio, Texas has come under scrutiny in the past as well for executing an innocent man, Ruben Cantu. Currently, there are 23 inmates on death row from Bexar County.
Steven Michael Woods Jr. was executed on September 13, 2011. A drifter with no prior record, he was the 10th person put to death in the state of Texas this year. He was convicted of capital murder in 2002 for the 2001 deaths of a man and woman in The Colony, TX, located in North Dallas. Woods and a co-defendant (Marcus Rhodes) were tried for the deaths. Woods admitted he was at the scene, but insisted that he did not do the actual killings. There was no physical or DNA evidence linking Woods to the murder. Woods’ conviction was based primarily on witnesses’ testimonies. Witnesses were not present at the murders and based their testimonies on conversations they had heard. Rhodes, who admitted to shooting and stabbing the victims, pleaded guilty to avoid a trial. Backpacks belonging to the victims were found in Rhodes’ car and the guns used were found at the home of Rhodes’ parents. Rhodes, who admitted to doing the actual killings, is serving a life sentence in prison while Woods, who did not murder anyone, was executed.
The case against Woods’ was primarily based on Texas’ Law of Parties (Texas Penal Code Section 7.02). The law states that a person can be held criminally responsible by aiding and abetting a felony in the course of which a murder is committed by others but who does not himself kill, attempt to kill, or intend to kill. In other words, a person can be convicted of guilt by association, even if they did not have the intent or knowledge that a murder was going to be committed.
The next person scheduled for execution in Texas was Duane Buck. Unlike Woods, Buck was granted a stay of execution by the United States Supreme Court on September 15, 2011. Buck’s guilt in the shooting of three people (two of the people died) is not questioned – but did he receive a fair trial based on the expert testimony? Dr. Walter Quijano is a psychologist who testified that African American people are statistically more likely to commit violence. Dr. Quijano testified that Buck was likely to pose a danger in the future because he is black. The 6th Amendment of the United States Constitution states that all citizens have the right to an impartial jury. But can the jury be impartial when the “expert” testimony says that a person should be put to death because of the color of their skin? Race should never be a factor when weighing whether a man should live or die.
At the Law Office of Dayna L. Jones we believe, when it comes to the death penalty, that there is no room for error. All citizens are guaranteed a fair and impartial trial. Contact us at (210) 255-8525 to schedule an appointment with the attorney. Calls are answered 24 hours a day, 7 days per week.