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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Sirens & Gavels

Death row inmate Woods receives another look at case

A man sentenced to death for his role in the brutal slaying of two women in a Spokane Valley trailer in 1996 has won another look at his case from a federal appeals court, though at least one judge said it's unlikely that review will change his fate.

Dwayne Anthony Woods is being held at Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla following his 1997 conviction on two counts of first-degree aggravated murder in the bludgeoning deaths of Telisha Shaver and Jade Moore, along with raping Moore. A jury, made up of nine women and three men, sentenced Woods to death after two days of deliberations.

During the penalty phase of the trial, Woods told his attorneys not to offer evidence of mitigating circumstances that could have prevented him from receiving a capital sentence. After prosecutors made their case, Woods told the jury he did not object to his own execution, according to court documents.

"So I ask that each of you go back and return a vote to impose the death penalty," Woods said in court, according to transcripts. "Thank you."

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Since then, multiple appeals have been filed by Woods to overturn his conviction and sentence, citing evidentiary errors performed at the Washington State Patrol crime lab - including a leaking blood sample and potential contamination - and his counsel's ineffectiveness to impeach that evidence or witnesses at his jury trial. In a decision handed down Monday, three judges for the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals threw out many of Woods's most recent claims, saying his objections were filed improperly or at the wrong time. However, they did order the U.S. District Court to take another look at his claim defense attorneys ignored their duty when they did not attempt to discredit Venus Shaver, an eyewitness to the beatings who said she was flitted in and out of consciousness as Woods allegedly bludgeoned her sister and Moore.

Woods says his post-conviction defense should have challenged the "recovered" memory of Shaver in the moments after he'd struck her with a bat. The District Court declined to consider the assertion, ruling that it hadn't been brought up in previous court cases, including Woods's appearance for the Washington state Supreme Court. But the appellate judges said the District Court must be briefed on the issue before rendering a decision.

In dissent, Judge Richard C. Tallman wrote the majority opinion amounts to "an unnecessary delay" in the case.

"Because none of Woods's new claims would lead a reasonable juror to conclude that Woods did not murder Jade Moore and Telisha Shaver, or attempt to murder Venus Shaver, no court can provide Woods the relief he seeks," Tallman wrote. He called the evidence against Woods "overwhelming."

Woods' execution was delayed pending the outcome of this appeal in February 2009. Since the filing of that appeal, Gov. Jay Inslee announced a moratorium on the death penalty while he is in office.

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