Alabama’s death-penalty law is the only one of its kind in the United States. There, a judge may sentence someone to death against a jury’s recommendation.
Elsewhere in the country, every other state with the death-penalty — all 30 of them — require unanimity from a jury in the phases of sentencing.
But in Alabama, a judge can overrule jurors’ findings regardless of the decision and impose his the death-penalty on his own accord.
And it’s more than conjecture — of the 57 executions since the death-penalty was reinstated in 1983, 29 of them were the result of a judicial override.
Two Alabama lawmakers are hoping to change that in 2017.
Montgomery-Republican state Sen. Dick Brewbaker and Tuscaloosa-Democrat state Rep. Chris England have both pre-filed bills in their respective chambers that call for an end to judicial override.
“We know of at least three cases in Alabama where an innocent (later exonerated) person was convicted of capital murder and the judge overrode the jury’s recommendations for life,” said Patrick Mulvaney of the Southern Center for Human Rights in an article published in the The Yale Law Journal. “We think that override is really a problem.”
Brewbaker and England, are hoping SB16 and HB32 are the answers.
184 people who currently on death row in Alabama are likely hoping they are as well.