Good afternoon. My name is Terri Been, and I am here to speak about and bring awareness to one of Texas’ poorly written laws entitled the Law of Parties.
In Texas, you can be found guilty of a crime in 3 different ways.
You can be the perpetrator who actually commits the act.
You can be found guilty under the Law of Parties if you solicit, encourage, direct, aid, or attempt to aid another person who commits the act; which is statute 7.02 A
The 3rd way you can be found guilty is under the Law of Parties statute 7.02 B which states that: If in the attempt to carry out a conspiracy to commit one felony, (such as robbery) another felony is committed by one of the conspirators, (such as murder) then ALL of the conspirators are found guilty of the felony actually committed, though having NO INTENT to commit it, if the offense was in furtherence of the unlawful purpose and was one that SHOULD HAVE BEEN ANTICIPATED as a result of carrying out of the conspiracy.
My brother, Jeffrey Wood, was convicted of Capital Murder in 1997 for a crime that 1.) he was not even physically present for and 2.) had no knowledge would even take place.
The death penalty was intended to be reserved for the “worst of the worst” unrepentant criminals. I am here to tell the world that Jeff is NOT the worst of the worst, and he does NOT deserve to be executed by the state of Texas, for a crime in which he did not commit!
Further, Jeff does NOT even deserve to be referred to as “TDCJ # 999256,” nor does he deserve to be referred to as “inmate Wood” or “convict” after 23 years in prison, for a murder he FACTUALLY did NOT commit. Yet he is and will forever be referred to as a “convicted killer” because the courts and our law makers allowed him to be labeled as such. Personally, I find it rather disturbing that court members know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that my brother was not even in the building when the murder took place; yet according to them, their hands are tied because they are, after all, only following the law. I am here to tell you that Texas law needs to be reformed, and it needs to be reformed NOW!
Please take a second to think about the following statement: "Equal Justice Under Law." Those words were written to be powerful; so powerful in fact that they were carved into the United States Supreme Court Building. The message these words deliver when they are put together need to be given serious consideration by Texas Law Makers when they introduce bills! To sentence a person to death who never committed a murder is NOT equal justice, and further to allow a person to sit in prison for 23 years, OR for LIFE is NOT equal justice. My brother has been a tiny cell, smaller than my bathroom, in isolation, being ridiculed, being verbally abused, being mentally and physically TORTURED for over 23 years, and for what??? So he can advance somebody else’s political career because they were being tough on crime? I have walked the halls and visited the offices in this capital for over 10 years begging for somebody to hear me, but my cries have fallen on mostly deaf ears. Very few people in this building want to do the right thing! Why? Because it is not convenient for them! I am starting to believe that there is no such thing as integrity anymore! I watch, horrified, as law makers pass bills they have not even read! I watch horrified, as they vote along their party line, in place of voting along the issue, their conscious, or what is RIGHT. I watch them pervert the law making process as they run around pressing buttons, casting votes for people who are not even on the floor to vote. It is ridiculous, and should be criminal!
What they need to do is put together some kind of committee, and really sit down with the leaders of the groups and family members who come to visit their offices. If our law makers are not willing to end the death penalty at this time, then they should, at the very least, provide a moratorium on all executions until such a time when the Texas Legislature can initiate a fair and open dialogue about our state’s capital punishment system and address such issues as the risk of executing the innocent, the exorbitant cost of the death penalty, and the arbitrary and biased way in which this punishment is meted out in Texas.
Remember my friends that YOU have the power to correct this situation with your vote, and your voice. I know you may feel like you don’t make a difference, but as my children once stated many years ago, we can make a difference one at a time. 1 + 1 + 1 +1 etc. There is power in numbers, so let’s use that power and to affect positive change in the Texas Criminal Justice System. Thank you!
Yes. Texas has specifically abolished any distinctions between “accomplice” and “principal” culpability. That makes each person criminally responsible as a “party” to the offense. This is sometimes referred to as the “Law of Parties in Texas” and is codified under Section 7.01 of the Texas Penal Code.
Section 7.02 of the Texas Penal Code sets out several things that can make you criminally responsible for the actions of someone else:
Texas also has what’s called the Felony Murder Rule under 7.02(b) of the Texas Penal Code. If you are engaged in a criminal conspiracy to commit one felony, then you can be held criminally responsible for any other felony committed by a co-conspirator that was one you should have anticipated.
For example, if you conspire to commit an armed robbery by acting as the get-away driver, and during the aggravated robbery an innocent bystander is shot and killed, you could be charged with capital murder even though you never had the specific intent to hurt someone and you were not involved in the shooting yourself. In Texas, a person can be even be charged with a capital offense under the Felony Murder Rule.
Helpful video explaining Law of Parties/Felony Murder Rule
A Prisoner’s Only Writing Machine | The New Yorker
https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/how-one-of-the-last-american-typewriter-companies-survives. Includes the story of Kenneth Foster, a Texas man convicted under Law of Parties.
This article is two years old but the info is still relevant. https://m.huffpost.com/…/e…/us_596d414fe4b07f87578e6b5f/amp…
As you read, you'll notice the section that shows how women are often victims of Law of Parties.
The name of this organization shall be Drop LoP Texas (hereinafter referred to as the "Committee").
PRINCIPAL OFFICE AND ADDRESS
The principal office of the Committee shall be located in Dallas, Texas, with mailing address Drop LoP Texas, P.O. Box 181655, Dallas TX 75218, email address Reformit@DropLoPTexas.com, and website DropLoPTexas.com
The Committee shall be a voluntary, nonprofit, unincorporated organization. It is not a 501.c.3 charitable organization but is registered with the State of Texas as a General Purpose Political Action Committee for the purpose of soliciting donations in furtherance of its purposes. As such, the Committee will file regular reports with the Texas Ethics Commission regarding monies taken in and disbursed.
PURPOSES AND POWERS
The purposes of the Committee are:
a) to identify families and individuals affected by Texas Law of Parties and collect their information and stories
b) to raise awareness of Texas lawmakers, judiciary officers, and general population of the existence of, and detrimental effect of Texas Law of Parties
c) to work for repeal of Texas Law of Parties and for sentencing review for persons currently incarcerated under this law who were not directly responsible for a death
d) to provide opportunity for individuals interested in the reform of Texas Law of Parties to contribute to the campaign for its repeal
e) to provide opportunity for interested individuals to contribute to the support of worthy candidates for State or Local office who believe, and have demonstrated their beliefs in, the purposes of the organization.
f) and, to solicit, directly or indirectly, and accept, voluntary personal contributions, and to make expenditures in connection with the attempt to promote and influence passage of legislation in keeping with the Committee purposes, including the selection, nomination, or election of individuals to State or Local office.
Until such time as the Executive Committee rewrites this section, actual membership of Drop LoP Texas is limited to the two founding members and other officers which may be appointed by the Treasurer or Chair.
Section 1. The Treasurer, being the sole officer required by the State of Texas for a General Purpose Political Action Committee, shall administer and have general and active management and supervision of all the affairs of the Committee until and unless additional officers are appointed, at which time administrative duties may be divided to other members of the Executive Committee as needed, with or without rewriting these bylaws.
Section 2. The Treasurer shall be the chief financial officer of the Committee, shall keep financial and other records of the Committee, shall comply with all applicable requirements required by law, shall file appropriate state and municipal disclosures, and shall perform such other duties as may be required for the ongoing business of the Committee.
Section 3. The Treasurer may appoint any willing party as Chairman, Vice Chairman, or Assistant Treasurer. Additional officers should be registered by amendment with the Texas Ethics Commission. Should the Treasurer be unable to execute responsibilities of the Committee, another appointed officer may assume the duties and register with the Texas Ethics Commission as new Treasurer as soon as possible, or, may choose to dissolve the Committee by filing notice of that action with the Texas Ethics Commission.
ADOPTION, AMENDMENTS AND BY-LAWS
Section 1. These Articles shall be adopted effective upon posting on the Committee website, DropLoPTexas.com.
Section 2. These Articles may be amended from time to time by the Executive Board.
The Committee may be dissolved at any time by decision of the Executive Board. In the event of such dissolution, all funds contained in the Committee’s campaign depository shall be distributed in a manner appropriate to existing state law.