June 24, 1997 in City

Woods Wants Death Sentence Deliberations Will Start This Morning After Defendant’s Surprising Testimony

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Three days after convicting him of murdering two young women, a Spokane jury listened as Dwayne Woods stood 4 feet away and asked to be put to death.

Woods surprised a crowded courtroom - and deflated his defense team - by insisting no one could speak on his behalf.

The dramatic moment came after Woods’ attorneys told jurors they would hear no testimony aimed at sparing the defendant’s life.

That testimony normally is presented during the penalty phase of a capital trial. But Woods insisted he alone would address the jury.

Standing before them, wearing a necktie and long-sleeve dress shirt, the 27-year-old Woods spoke calmly.

“Earlier … each of you said you could vote for the death penalty if there were no mitigating circumstances,” he said.

“Well, I’m here to tell you there are none. Not one. So with that, I ask you to go back and vote for the death penalty.”

He quickly said “Thank you” and returned to his seat at the defense table.

Instead of facing an anticipated three days of testimony, jurors were sequestered Monday night and will start deliberating this morning.

On Friday, the same jury convicted Woods of two counts of aggravated first-degree murder. The victims - Telisha Shaver, 22, and Jade Moore, 18 - were beaten to death with an aluminum baseball bat on April 27, 1996. Their bodies were found in a Spokane Valley trailer home.

Woods also was convicted of first-degree attempted murder for attacking 20-year-old Venus Shaver, sister of Telisha Shaver.

Prosecutors said Woods, who knew Venus Shaver, arrived at the trailer late that night. He attacked her when she refused to have sex with him, then he raped and killed Moore.

Telisha Shaver, who came to the home later, was tied up and beaten with the bat. She died of severe brain injuries, as did Moore.

Venus Shaver, who survived being stabbed and beaten by Woods, testified against him during the 2-week-long trial.

Woods will be sentenced to death if all 12 jurors agree he does not deserve the only other option: life imprisonment without parole.

Since he was convicted, Woods’ lawyers became convinced he was incapable of assisting in his own defense.

Citing confidential attorney-client discussions, defense attorneys Richard Fasy and Jim Sheehan would not reveal what convinced them of Woods’ mental instability.

They filed a motion Monday with Superior Court Judge Michael Donohue, arguing that Woods could no longer assist them.

They asked Donohue to delay the trial a week, pending a sanity review by psychiatrists.

Donohue denied the motion, citing pretrial psychiatric evaluations that showed Woods was competent to stand trial.

“The court would be indulging in pure speculation to raise the issue (of competency) at this point,” Donohue said.

Sheehan had prepared more than a day of witness testimony, including statements from his parents, sister and nephew. They were likely to cover his life history, psychological profile and relationship with family members.

Defense attorneys could have insisted on offering the testimony. But that option evaporated Monday morning when family members talked with Woods and decided to abide by his wishes.

“That really cut our knees out from under us,” said Jay Ames, another defense lawyer. “They said they would not and could not do anything that wasn’t in solidarity with Dwayne.”

In closing arguments, Prosecutor Jim Sweetser told jurors they should accept Woods’ request at face value.

“He knows better than anyone else. He deserves no mercy,” Sweetser said.

Sheehan reminded jurors they still had one legal option - exercising mercy simply because they felt that the death penalty wasn’t warranted.

With repeated references to the Bible, Sheehan insisted sparing Woods is the humane, compassionate choice.

In case strict retribution was on jurors’ minds, Sheehan told them life without parole is “ultimately the harder punishment for these crimes.

“Dwayne will spend the rest of his life inside prison. The only question you will answer is how he dies - because of a lethal poison spewing through his veins, or through dying of natural causes inside a prison.”

, DataTimes


Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email