Drunk Lawyer Grossly Misrepresented Black Man Now on Death Row, Appeal Claims

Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman

By Amy Berberyan


OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – Based on evidence that his court-appointed trial lawyer was addicted to drugs during his representation, Tremane Wood—a Black man on death row for a crime his brother confessed to committing—has filed an Application for Postconviction Relief.


In the Application, Wood’s lawyers argue Johnny Albert—Wood’s original trial lawyer—was “using cocaine, in addition to using pills.” Furthermore, a separate client had given Albert cocaine as a substitute for paying legal fees.


Wood’s lawyers now contribute this addiction to Albert’s “numerous failures to subject the prosecution’s case against Mr. Wood to meaningful adversarial testing.”


Keith Hilzendeger, one of Wood’s attorneys, said, Wood “sits on death row while the person who killed the victim received a life sentence. The new evidence revealing the extent of his trial lawyer’s addiction and its effect on his representation undermines any confidence in the jury’s verdict.”
“It would be unconscionable to allow Mr. Wood’s execution in light of this new evidence of grievous constitutional error,” Hilzendeger added.


Tremane’s brother, Zjaiton Wood, who said he committed the murder, confessed to and faces life in prison for the crime due to being represented by three public defenders with lots of experience, and two qualified investigators.


Albert, on the other hand, was provided a flat fee to represent Tremane Wood. Throughout the six days of his trial, Albert presented no evidence whatsoever to defend him.


According to the trial lawyer himself, he “did not have the time to adequately represent Tremane, abused alcohol while handling Mr. Wood’s death penalty case, and was drinking on a regular basis.”


Furthermore, he admitted to “[doing] very little to investigate and prepare Mr. Wood for trial.” and “met with him on a very limited basis and only when [they] were in court.”


According to his lawyers now, since his trial lawyer had clearly not prepared anything for him, Tremane Wood allowed his brother Zjaiton Wood to testify on his behalf. 


This testimony hindered Tremane Wood because, while Zjaiton Wood testified he himself was responsible for the murder of the victim, he also insisted another man had participated in the crime with him that was not his younger brother.


Tremane’s lawyers argue that Albert did not do his job, and the jurors who voted to give Wood the death sentence never learned crucial information.


For instance, his appeal notes, due to his exposure to “extreme violence” since he was very young,  Tremane Wood suffers from PTSD. He had to bond with his older, abusive brother to survive due to absent and neglectful parents. 

And Tremane was more compassionate than his older brother and thrived when free of his influence and the home space in general

After the events of the trial, a juror who discovered this information came forward and “stated in sworn testimony” that, had this evidence been revealed to the members of the jury, she would not have voted in favor of the death sentence, accord to Tremane’s lawyers.


While Albert was representing T. Wood, he also had two other clients—James Fisher and Keary Littlejohn—who were similarly sentenced to death. Both Fisher and Littlejohn were excused from their death sentences or released from prison due to misrepresentation by Albert.


Tremane Wood, on the other hand, is his only client who still remains without this relief.


Tremane Wood’s lawyers have also alleged there was racism in the jury selection. Wood’s jury only had one Black juror. This single juror later came forward, citing “pressure” to condemn Wood to death from the rest of the jury members, Tremane’s new lawyers assert.

About The Author

Amy is a UCLA student majoring in English and Philosophy. She is interested in law and is from Burbank, California.

Related posts

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
Sign up for