Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall spoke to the Mid-Alabama Republican Club at the Vestavia Hills Public Library on Saturday.
On Thursday, Federal Judge Kristi Dubose of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama, granted Christopher Lee Price’s petition for a stay of execution.
Marshall said at some point, federal judges and the U.S. Supreme Court have got to stop granting these last-minute appeals that “are usually frivolous.”
Marshall said he learned how to be a prosecutor in Jefferson under then District Attorney David Barber.
“David Barber told me that when you prosecute you enforce the law,” Marshall said.
“We have lost over 500 law enforcement officers in the line of duty in Alabama,” Marshall said, citing the deaths of officers in both Mobile and Birmingham. “That is not an area where we want to be leading the nation.”
“Based on the last couple of months we need to have a satellite office in Jefferson County,” Marshall joked.
Marshall said his office has issued search warrants for electronic bingo operations in Jefferson County.
“They are casinos, and they are slot machines,” Marshall said. “There is a lot I would like to tell you, but there are ongoing investigations. There has been seizure of money and 1,200 machines. When Mike Hale was sheriff, there were zero machines, now there are 1200 machines. That is a clue.”
Jefferson County Sheriff Mark Pettway announced that his office had priorities other than enforcing the state ban on gambling. The cities of Brighton and Graysville both licensed electronic bingo establishments following that announced change in law enforcement priorities.
Marshall said he developed the violent crime initiative along with federal and local authorities. The violent crime initiative works to identify those areas of the state where there was a disproportion amount of violent crime. Brighton is an example. There is a reason why bingo halls show up there. It is also where dead bodies were showing up. Another area of focus has been the Black Belt, particularly Selma, where they did not have the resources to deal with it. These are pockets of violence, and state and federal resources have been prioritized to those areas. A results is that 300 people have been put behind bars in the federal or state or local facilities. These are “violent offenders who are off the streets.”
Marshall criticized that Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles.
“That is a system that is broken and we have got to fix it,” Marshall said. “The board of pardons and paroles is not doing its job.”
Marshall said people serving life sentences were showing up on our streets after six, seven or eight years. For some reason they released Jimmy Spencer, a violent criminal that had committed 90 offenses while in prison including violence against guards, to Marshall County.
“Then he killed three women that I knew and knew will and he killed a seven year old boy,” Marshall said.
Marshall said when he and the governor questioned the board, one of them said, “We are responsible for making sure that our prisons are not too crowded. That is not their job.”
“That board and that agency is not truly responsible to anyone,” Marshall said. “In the ’20s, the governor was selling pardons, I know that is a shock that corruption goes back that far. So the Legislature took it out of the hands of the governor.”
Marshall supports legislation reforming the Pardons and Paroles Board.
“That bill got out of the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. I hope that is something that we can take up quickly,” Marshall said. “The Parole board is not to be the safety valve on prison overcrowding. Over 70 percent of the offenders are there for violent crimes. For those who think that our jails and prisons are full of people there for marijuana possession; they are foolish and don’t know what they are talking about.”
“I have become the immigration AG,” Marshall said. “The majority of the illegal drugs in our state are coming from the Sinoloa Cartel in Mexico.”
While some of the drugs comes in through ports of entry, most of it comes across the uncontrolled southern border.
Marshall has been invited to the White House and to speak to Congress on the need for border security.
“It is an Alabama issue, and we will continue to be that voice for the president and the administration,” Marshall said.
One of the most exciting things about being attorney general is litigation defending the state’s laws, Marshall said.
“Mayor Bell in a last minute desperation move when he decided to put that mall around that monument in Linn Park,” when there was a state law in place protecting that monument. A judge issued a decision upholding Bell’s action 11 minutes before he went out of office. “I look forward to that decision coming out of the Supreme Court.”
Marshall said if the Census counts illegal immigrants on congressional reapportionment, “We will lose a congressional seat if we don’t we won’t.”
Marshall is suing to have only lawful residents counted for 2020 census purposes and there will be a question about your legal status on the 2020 census.
That district and the associated electoral college vote will go to Texas or California. Marshall said. “I am not real comfortable in letting California have our presidential vote.”
“I was a little disappointed that the Department of Justice did not come out full in support of us,” Marshall said. “They said that Alabama is premature. We are not.”
“I spoke to Congress about this,” Marshall continued. “There are some that disagreed with me.”
Marshall said he is fighting to defend Alabama’s Dismemberment Abortion Ban bill in the courts, which he described as “a horrific procedure.”
“Our Legislature acted appropriately,” Marshall said. “That is now before the Supreme Court. I hope they will take that up. The issue of life is something that needs to be decided by the Legislature in the state of Alabama.”
Marshall said he is also defending the people of Pensacola’s right to have a cross in a park.
AG Marshall’s wife committed suicide during the 2018 Republican primary runoff campaign.
“You are all aware of the tragedy over the summer,” Marshall said. “She struggled with opioids over a medical condition.”
“Alabama has the highest rate of opioid prescriptions in the country. There is no reason for that,” Marshall said. We have reduced opioids 23 percent and have seen overdose deaths leveling off, though Alabama does not do a real good job of tracking that. The ME in Jefferson County does but the coroners in rural counties not quite as well. There is ongoing litigation. Alabama is part of that.”
Marshall said the Department of Justice has issued a report on the Alabama Department of Corrections.
“We are going to have to respond within 60 days,” Marshall said. “That is a threshold before DOJ can filed a lawsuit. I don’t think that is their intention.”
“The paramount concern is that we not get DOJ’s hand in our business for years and years,” Marshall said. “We had a similar report on Tutwiler, and Tutwiler is now a model prison.”
Some in the Legislature are saying that reforming our criminal justice system should be part of that.
A comprehensive ethics reform bill is being considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“The current bill I don’t support,” Marshall said. “We will continue to have a dialogue with legislators.”
Marshall said he brought forward a common sense ethics reform bill that addressed all of the issues last year, but the Legislature chose not to act on it.
“We will continue to pursue corruption, and we are going to do that,” Marshall promised.
The MARC gave Marshall a family home bingo set.
MARC meets on the second Saturday of each month at the Vestavia Hills Public Library. Paul DeMarco is the President.