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Texas appeals court halts execution of man who did not kill anyone

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The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Friday halted an execution planned for next week of a man convicted as an accomplice to a murder he did not commit in a case that raised questions about how the state applies the death penalty.

Jeffery Wood, 43, was scheduled to be executed on Aug. 24 by lethal injection. He was convicted of taking part in a 1996 convenience store robbery during which clerk Kriss Keeran was fatally shot.

In its decision, the appeals court asked a lower court to review his sentence and claims from Wood’s lawyer that it was obtained in violation of due process because it was based on false testimony and false scientific evidence.

Wood’s layer questioned a witness for the prosecution, forensic psychiatrist Dr. James Grigson, who told a court in the 1990s Wood would commit future acts of violence and was a threat to society.

Grigson, nicknamed “Dr. Death” for his willingness to testify against people facing the death penalty, was expelled from the Texas Society of Psychiatric Physicians and the American Psychiatric Association for ethical violations: making diagnoses of capital murder defendants without first examining them.

“The court did the right thing by staying Mr. Wood’s execution and authorizing his claims related to Dr. Grigson’s false testimony during the sentencing phase to be considered on the merits,” said Jared Tyler, Wood’s lawyer.

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Wood was unarmed in a vehicle outside the store when it was robbed. Prosecutors have said Wood knew the clerk might be shot. Wood’s lawyers said he was unaware that a robbery was underway.

Wood’s roommate at the time, Daniel Reneau, was convicted of pulling the trigger and executed on June 13, 2002.

“I am not aware of a case where a person has been executed with so minimal culpability and with such little participation in the event,” Tyler said in an interview.

Under Texas’ “Law of Parties,” a person can be charged with capital murder even if the offense is committed by someone else.

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After he heard a shot, Wood entered the store to help Reneau steal a cash box, safe and security video system.

Ten people have been executed as accessories to felony murder since the United States reinstated the death penalty in 1976, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, which monitors capital punishment.

Five have been in Texas, which has executed more people than any state since the death penalty was reinstated.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by David Gregorio)

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‘Disillusioned’ Trump megadonors have completely bailed on his 2020 campaign: report

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The billionaire Mercer family was one of President Donald Trump's biggest financial benefactors in 2016 -- but they appear to have completely withdrawn from political spending for the president's reelection bid.

Vanity Fair's Gabriel Sherman reports that hedge-fund tycoon Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah Mercer are "disillusioned" and have all but disappeared from the political scene as the president is gearing up his 2020 campaign.

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What we don’t know about Mexico’s efforts to stop migrants

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OK, it’s been only little more than 10 days since Donald Trump told us that Mexico had agreed to move aggressively to stop immigrants from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras that aim to pass through Mexico for the U.S. border.

How is the plan going?

More importantly, how will the Trump administration and White House measure the change and adjudge it as adequate progress in 45 days. Without such a declaration, the president had warned, he might renew the threat of progressively increased tariffs on Mexican imports.

It’s a little hard to tell—in part because it is too soon, and in part because no one is really compiling the information on a weekly basis to show progress or lack of it. In addition, there are questions of what exactly to measure or what that measure should be. Unlike the announced solutions, the problems themselves are complicated. And the new Mexican National Guard is still being formed.

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‘Expect the worst’ as Trump doubles down on racist rhetoric to rile up his base: columnist

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In a column for the Daily Beast, commentator and Sirius radio host Dean Obeidallah claims that all signs point to Donald Trump doubling down on racist rhetoric in an effort to rally his base as his internal polling shows him losing the key states that propelled him to the White House.

As Trump officially launches his re-election bid in Orlando on Tuesday night, Obeidallah notes Trump is falling back on what helped him appeal to disgruntled white workers in the Midwest and that he will likely ramp up attacks on undocumented immigrants -- including official actions.

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