Activists march against the death penalty

Michelle Zhang

Although she grew up in a pro-death penalty Republican family, Terrie Been chose to speak out in front of a crowd on Saturday for her brother Jeff Wood, a Texas death-row prisoner whose execution was halted in August.

While Wood didn’t shoot the victim, he was sentenced to the death penalty under Texas’ Law of Parties for his involvement in a 1996 murder case. The ruling has since been appealed by Wood’s lawyers and will be sent to the original trial court for re-evaluation.

“I want the world to know that my brother, Jeff Wood, is not a monster,” Been said. “I want the world to know that he is not the worst of the worst. Jeff is a human being, he does not deserve to be referred to as number 999256.”

A crowd of more than 30 people consisting of activists, student organizations, UT students and families of death row inmates gathered at the south side of the Texas State Capitol for the 17th annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty. However, Been wished her voice could be heard by a larger audience.

“It’s breaking my heart.” Been said. “Every year there are less and less people.”

Linguistics senior Elizabeth Dean, a member of the International Socialist Organization, said the death penalty is a cruel and undeserved punishment for people who don’t get proper representation.

“The rich committing crimes can buy their way out of it, and the poor, innocent, are subject to far worse penalties.” Dean said. “Especially, black and brown people are targeted by the police.”

After an open-mic speech at the Capitol, the crowd walked up to the governor’s mansion while shouting chants like, “Texas death row, we say hell no,” and “Law of Parties, shut ‘em down.”

As the second-most populous state, Texas has accounted for more than a third of the nation’s total executions since 1976, but the number is declining, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

“There are increasingly signs that conservatives, as well as liberals, are concerned about problems with the administration of the death penalty,” said Raoul Schonemann, clinical professor and co-director of the Capital Punishment Clinic. “The repeal by the Nebraska legislature in 2015 may signal abolition by other ‘red states’ in the future. So while I don’t think Texas will abolish the death penalty soon, I also don’t think it’s inconceivable that it will happen eventually.”