Texas governor Rick Perry is scheduled to have a man executed Tuesday night, but lawyers and activist groups are asking the GOP frontrunner to grant clemency due to a lack of physical evidence.
In 2002, Steven Woods was convicted of killing Ronald Whitehead, 21, and Bethena Brosz, 19. Prosecutors did not have any physical evidence but relied on witness testimony and Woods' criminal past to paint a picture of a bloodthirsty drug dealer who killed two people during a drug deal gone bad.
After the jury recommended the death penalty, Ronald Whitehead's father read a statement to Woods.
"I can't begin to put into words what you have taken from my life and my family," Whitehead said. “All I have left of Ronnie are memories, wonderful memories, and pictures."
He continued, "You have left a trail of evil everywhere you have been in your life. You are a cancer in this society, and society has isolated the disease. You will see me and my family one more time, for the justice that the people have imposed on you."
Three months later, Woods' co-defendant, Marcus Rhodes, made a plea deal with prosecutors in exchange for two life sentences. There was physical evidence linking him to the murder, including his gun and car, which were used in the murders. He then admitted to killing Whitehead and Brosz himself, according to the Austin Chronicle.
However, it appears that the possibility of Woods' innocence has drawn little sympathy from the public, perhaps due to his ugly past.
During the case, prosecutors claimed the 31-year-old death row inmate experimented with Satanism, physically abused animals, and even sexually abused his younger brother, sister, and a former girlfriend.
Woods' stepfather, fiancee, and fiancee's family backed up the claims of his violent, anti-social behavior. However, people familiar with Woods have told the Christian Post that the allegations are false.
Despite Woods' allegedly despicable behavior, there is no physical evidence linking him to killings of Whitehead and Brosz.
His attorneys are now seeking commutation, arguing that it is "irreconcilable" for him to be executed for a crime in which his "no less culpable" co-defendant is serving a life sentence for.
Woods' supporters stress the same point as his attorneys, and groups like Amnesty International have been active in trying to prevent his execution.
However, under Texas's "law of parties," one does not need to commit murder to get the death penalty; one simply has to be present at the scene of the crime and have knowledge of the criminal act or acts committed.
"A lot of people with no blood on their own hands get executed in Texas," Mary O'Grady, a death row expert based in Austin, told the U.K.’s Guardian.
Texas is the only state in the U.S. that allows the death penalty to be handed out under the "law of parties."
If Woods is executed Tuesday night, as scheduled, it will mark Perry's 235th execution during his term as governor.
Perry has overseen more executions than any other governor in modern history, a point of contention among critics who consider the extremely high number as an example of his recklessness.
"When it comes to death row, Perry is completely unfeeling and unemotional," said Ray Hill, who runs the Execution Watch website and radio show in Texas. "It never strikes him that he should value the lives of those who are accused, even wrongfully."
The Washington Post has quoted Perry as saying, "If you don't support the death penalty or packing a pistol, don't come to Texas."
Perry is scheduled to have four people executed over the next eight days.