Conviction and execution of Steven Michael Woods Jr.

Steven Michael Woods Jr. (April 17, 1980 – September 13, 2011)[1] was an American who was executed by lethal injection in the state of Texas.[2] Woods was sentenced to death after a jury convicted him of the capital murders of drug dealer Ronald Whitehead, 21, and Bethena Brosz, 19, on May 2, 2001 in The Colony, Texas.[3] Woods petitioned to media outlets for prisoner rights in February 2004.[4]

Steven Michael Woods Jr.
Born
Steven Michael Woods Jr.

(1980-04-17)April 17, 1980
DiedSeptember 13, 2011(2011-09-13) (aged 31)
NationalityAmerican
EducationMilford High School, finished 11th grade
Known forTried under the Texas law of parties
Criminal statusmurdered on September 13, 2011 at Walls Unit; Texas Department of Criminal Justice
Criminal chargeCapital murder
PenaltyDeath (August 21, 2002)

He was incarcerated on the Texas state death row for men, located in the Allan B. Polunsky Unit (formerly the Terrell Unit) in West Livingston, Texas. In late 2006, Woods was part of a hunger strike in Polunsky, to oppose death-row inmates' treatment.[5]

Sentencing

Woods' co-defendant, Marcus Rhodes, pleaded guilty to shooting both victims to death with a firearm in the same criminal transaction and received a life sentence. During the trial, authorities were revealed to have recovered backpacks belonging to the slain pair along with shell casings and a bloodied knife in Rhodes' car. Guns used in the slayings were also recovered from the home of Rhodes' parents.[6]

However, in Texas, the law of parties states that a person can be criminally responsible for the actions of another if he or she aids and abets, conspires with the principal, or anticipates the crime. Although Rhodes pleaded guilty to the murders and Woods did not, and no physical evidence tied Woods to the scene, Woods was executed for the crime.[7] Witnesses testified at Woods' 2002 trial that Rhodes and he said that they lured Whitehead to an isolated road on the pretense of a drug deal and that Woods shot and killed him, because Whitehead knew about a killing 2 months earlier in California. Rhodes was later found guilty of the California murder and Woods was not. Prosecutors said Brosz was merely driving her boyfriend Whitehead to the drug deal. Brosz had been killed because she witnessed Whitehead's death, yelled, and then attempted to flee.[2]

Controversy

The fairness of Woods' case and punishment was criticized by Amnesty International.[8] Woods' criminal case was reported locally and internationally.[9][10][11] Woods' final motion for a stay was denied on September 2, 2011.[12]

Execution

In his last words, Woods stated:

You're not about to witness an execution, you are about to witness a murder. I am strapped down for something Marcus Rhodes did. I never killed anybody, never. I love you, Mom. I love you, Tali. This is wrong. This whole thing is wrong. I can't believe you are going to let Marcus Rhodes walk around free. Justice has let me down. Alex Calhoun completely screwed this up. [changed from 'Alex Calhoun' to 'Somebody' in the Last Statement listed on the TDCJ Web site. Alex Calhoun was Woods' attorney.] I love you, too, Mom. Well Warden, if you are going to murder someone, go ahead and do it. Pull the trigger. It's coming. I can feel it coming. Goodbye everyone, I love you.[13]

Woods then took several deep breaths before all body movement stopped.[2] A needle carrying the lethal drugs into his right arm pierced a green tattoo of a rose branch. The distinctive tattoo had identified him when he was arrested. Woods was pronounced dead on September 13, 2011, at 6:22 pm.[14] Woods' was the 10th execution carried out in Texas in 2011[15] and the 474th since Texas resumed the death penalty in 1982.

References

  1. "Offender information – Woods, Stephen Michael Jr". Texas department of criminal justice. Retrieved September 14, 2011.
  2. "Ex-drug dealer executed for killing 2 in Texas". The Houston chronicle. September 13, 2011. Retrieved September 14, 2011.
  3. "Media Advisory: Steven M. Woods scheduled for execution". The Attorney general of Texas. September 7, 2011. Retrieved September 14, 2011.
  4. "Vin Suprynowicz: Won't you help Steve Woods get a hot meal?". Las Vegas review journal. February 22, 2004. Retrieved September 14, 2011.
  5. "Texas Inmates Protest Conditions With Hunger Strikes". The New York Times. November 8, 2006. Retrieved September 14, 2011.
  6. "Ex-drug dealer to die today in slayings of Denton County pair". The Huntsville Item. September 13, 2011. Retrieved September 14, 2011.
  7. "Texas Penal Code - Section 7.02. Criminal Responsibility For Conduct Of Another". law.onecle.com. Archived from the original on January 25, 2012. Retrieved September 14, 2011.
  8. "Stop the Execution of Steven Woods in Texas". Amnesty International. Archived from the original on March 20, 2012. Retrieved September 14, 2011.
  9. "Texas executes prisoner for double murder even though another con confessed to the killings". The Daily Mail. September 14, 2011. Retrieved September 14, 2011.
  10. "Two Inmates Set To Die This Month - September could boost Perry's execution tally". The Austin Chronicle. September 9, 2011. Retrieved September 14, 2011.
  11. "Execution set for Tuesday in 2001 killing of pair". star-telegram.com. September 11, 2011. Retrieved September 14, 2011.
  12. "Application for post- conviction writ of habeas corpus and motion for stay of execution". Court of criminal appeals of Texas. September 2, 2011. Archived from the original on March 22, 2012. Retrieved September 14, 2011.
  13. "Steven Woods - Last Words". www.stevenmichaelwoods.info. Retrieved November 3, 2011.
  14. "Ex-drug dealer executed for killing 2 in Texas". seattlepi.com. September 13, 2011. Retrieved September 14, 2011.
  15. "Texas Execution Is First Of 4 Scheduled Over 2 Weeks". 8-WGAL The Susquehanna Valley. September 13, 2011. Archived from the original on March 23, 2012. Retrieved September 14, 2011.
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