Don't kill David Leon Woods Friday

Dateline: Tue 01 May 2007

David Leon Woods, 42, is scheduled to be killed Friday at Michigan City prison by lethal injection.

He was convicted in 1984 of stabbing his neighbor, Juan Placencia, 77, during a robbery north of Fort Wayne. He was 19 years old and he has been incarcerated since then.

The death penalty is wrong for moral and ethical reasons; it is wrong for the state to assume the role of cold-blooded killer. As longtime defense attorney Bob Hammerle noted, there are monsters among us. Lock them up, he says, and throw away the key. But do not kill them.

Woods, however, is no monster. Here are some thoughts from Paula Sites, assistant director of the Indiana Public Defenders Council, on Woods and his background. Her comments relate to a former school counselor who knew both Woods and his sister Lora. The counselor testified at a clmenmcy hearing for Woods:

"She and her husband took Lora in and helped her make something of

herself. She talked about how the kids came to school dirty and hungry and with pretty horrid behavior. David was placed in a foster home where he started to thrive, but the foster father died of a heart attack and that placement ended, and he was sexually assaulted at another placement. Their mother is pretty limited mentally, and was probably raising them the way she was raised, but it was pretty awful. Locked the refrigerator and gave them food as a reward for doing things like stealing for her, and mocked them when they did normal kid things. Had a series of pretty rough men in and out of the house, terrorized the kids with these guys for fun, killed their pets, slept with high school classmates of David in front of him, and certainly never did anything like mother him or his siblings. She testified against David at trial -- she says the prosecutor went to her house, put his arm around her, offered to take her out to dinner, and told her testifying was the only way to help David -- she thought he was David's lawyer. There's also an 82-year-old retired Church of the Brethren pastor from Goshen, Wanda Callahan, who has been visiting him the whole time he's been on death row (since he was 19). She and others who have worked on his case -- lawyers, investigators, a special ed expert, all say he's the nicest client they've ever worked with, and all the men on death row signed a letter to the governor on his behalf -- something nobody's ever seen happen beforeHe was pretty overwhelmed when he

found out they had done that."

I've visited prisons and I know that for some inmates, it is their first meaningful experience with structure and a chance to find some purpose in life. Woods has done that, according to his attorney Linda Wagoner and many others who have gotten to know him -- prison chaplains and others who volunteer in the system.

Gov. Daniels would be wise to stay the execution order -- wise and merciful as well.


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