Sunday, April 09, 2017

17.1 - Good News: Alabama limits power to impose death penalty

Good News: Alabama limits power to impose death penalty

Let's start the week with some Good News.

Alabama is currently the only state in the US that allows for what's called judicial override in cases involving the death penalty. What that means is that a judge can sentence a convicted defendant to death even if a jury has specifically rejected that choice.

Alabama is also the only state where a defendant can be sentenced to die by the vote of 10 of 12 jurors. Every other state with the death penalty requires that decision to be unanimous. No doubt partly as a result, Alabama historically has executed more defendants than states five times its size.

Happily, the state is about to take one step back from that. The state legislature has passed a bill ending the practice of judicial override. It now goes to Gov. Robert Bentley, who is expected to sign it - and even if he doesn't, the bill passed by margins well beyond what is needed to override a veto.

After the Supreme Court struck down a similar (but not identical) sentencing regime in Florida in 2016, Alabama became the last state to have judicial override for the death penalty. Now, the practice soon will no longer exist in the US.

Yes, Alabama still has the death penalty, but as I said last week, I think anything that throws a brick into the machinery of legal murder is Good News.

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