The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has halted an execution scheduled Aug. 24 which had been labeled immoral by a group of evangelical leaders including several well-known moderate Baptists.
The court voted 7-2 on Aug. 19 to stop the execution of Jeffrey Lee Wood, 42, convicted in the 1996 death of a convenience store clerk under a “law of parties” that made him as driver of the getaway car in a robbery responsible for a murder committed by his accomplice even though he was not there.
The appellate court returned the case to a lower court to reconsider the sentence in light of objections by Wood’s attorneys about a psychiatrist called as a prosecution witness nicknamed “Dr. Death” because he testified in so many capital cases. He was subsequently kicked out of two medical associations for ethics violation.
Baptist leaders from Texas and across the nation joined other evangelicals in an Aug. 9 open letter asking Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Board of Pardons to halt the execution because Wood has a history of mentally illness.
“All are made in God’s image, and as a society we especially must protect those with mental illness and disabilities,” the religious leaders wrote. “Officials have a moral obligation to rectify this mistake and stop this execution while they still can.”