A bipartisan group of Texas lawmakers are advocating for legislation that would reform Texas’ death penalty laws. Under current state law, if someone is involved in a killing crime, but does not directly commit the killing, they can still be executed under what is known as the “law of parties.” The law of parties allows for people to be held criminally responsible for being involved in a crime, even if they don’t commit the crime themselves.
House Bill 316 aims to change the way that the law of parties is applied in the case of killings and resultant death penalty sentences.
According to Texas lobbyist and attorney Jake Posey, the bill emerged following the case of Jeff Wood, who was involved in a convenience store robbery in which Wood’s friend shot and killed a convenience store clerk. Wood was sentenced to death, but avoided execution after public outcry and a stay issued by the Texas Court of Appeals.
Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, has filed House Bill 316 to make the reform, and at least one other lawmaker has plans to file a separate bill to do the same. Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, who was active in fighting for Wood’s cause, has said that he will be submitting his own legislation. However, according to the Texas Tribune, he has also said that he will work with Rep. Canales. Leach has also said that he does not believe the death penalty should be repealed, but he does believe it should be applied to only the most “heinous crimes and offenders.”