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Virtual Paralegalism

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Paralegal Filed Petition to Stay Convicted Serial Killer’s Execution

The El Paso Times is reporting that Georgia paralegal and law student Erica Haywood has taken it upon herself to offer legal assistance to convicted serial killer David L. Wood, and took the unusual step of attempting to provide legal assistance by filing a petition (included in his appeals file) to stay his execution. Wood was not executed on August 20 as scheduled – but because his actual defense attorneys “saved him from execution last week by arguing that he is so mentally retarded that he can’t read.”

Haywood, who, according to the El Paso Times, has served her own time behind bars for attempted assault on a public servant, has also requested that she be appointed “his guardian and advocate so she can help with his appeal.”

“I’ve never met Wood or talked to him,” Haywood said in a telephone interview.

“I am a concerned citizen who wants him to have a fair trial.”

The El Paso Times reporter added that Haywood sent Wood a copy of her pleadings, plus $20 to use at the commissary, but has not heard back from him.

The issue of Wood’s alleged mental retardation is interesting. In 1976, he told the court that he can read and write the English language. A 1980 psychiatric evaluation indicates that Wood said his favorite subject was English, and at his 1992 trial, his defense lawyers asked that he be given a felt-tip pen and access to the law library. Wood’s attorneys filed statements with their motion for stay of execution, allegedly showing a low I.Q. and poor school performance.

To escape the death penalty, Wood must be able to prove he is mentally impaired. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals halted Wood’s scheduled execution on Aug. 20 so a hearing can be held to determine whether he meets U.S. Supreme Court guidelines for mental retardation.

2 Responses to Paralegal Filed Petition to Stay Convicted Serial Killer’s Execution

  1. It is very tough for us to judge people properly. How many of us intend to check the background of our next door neighbor. Some times it is hard to find if the guy intentionally gives you false identity. May be he has done something wrong or illegal and looking for shelter. We all are to be prepared for destroying them nip in the bud.

  2. Mental "impairment" is far from enough to constitutionally prohibit execution. I would hope paralegals generally pay more attention to the law than this. Atkins v Virginia speaks specifically of mental "retardation."

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Lynne J. DeVenny, N.C. State Bar Certified Paralegal

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Lynne DeVenny is a North Carolina State Bar Certified Paralegal with over 27 years of experience working on complex litigation cases, including medical malpractice, personal injury, workers’ compensation, and Social Security disability.

Disclosure: I am not a lawyer and cannot provide legal representation or legal advice.

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