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Parole hearings this Week

Brandon Moseley

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The Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles announced in a statement to the press that it will hold parole hearings for twenty violent offenders this week. Among them one murderer, three sex offenders, and eight who were convicted of robbery.

Deashton Luvoris Hayes is a two-time convicted robber. He was sentenced in 2010 to two years in prison for third-degree robbery and first-degree theft of property in Madison County. In 2011, Hayes robbed another man of a remote-controlled car by force. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison for that second robbery, to go along with his original 10-year sentence. In 2018 he was convicted of distribution of controlled substances in Madison County and was sentenced to five years in prison. Hayes has only served just fifteen months of that last five-year prison sentence and is already eligible for parole.

Deandre Quintero Love was convicted in 2009 of second degree assault and discharging a firearm into an occupied building or car. He received ten and fifteen year sentences for those crimes. Love was convicted of robbery in 2012 and sentenced to fifteen years in prison. In 2017 he received a six year sentence for two counts of possession and receiving controlled substances. Despite this he was paroled last year. In April he was sent back to prison for five years for a drug crime. Despite being a captured parole violator he is again eligible for parole.

Ervin Cornelius Smith was sentenced in 1987 to two years in prison for two second-degree robberies in Mobile County. In January of this year he was sent back to prison on an eight-year sentence for possession and receiving controlled substances in Mobile County.

In 2003 Diangelo Tarez Dudley received a three year sentence for first-degree burglary in Tuscaloosa County. His sentence for the burglary was extended in 2006 to 10 years after he was also convicted of two counts of drug possession and sentenced to three years. In 2011 he was convicted of drug possession. In November 2018 he was sentenced to five years for drug distribution in Tuscaloosa County. Dudley has served only thirteen months of that sixty month sentence.

Toney Jeffery Hughes was sentenced on Oct. 17, 2018 to three years, 10 months for third-degree burglary and drug possession, and to seven years, six months on two counts of drug possession, all in Madison County. He has served just fourteen months of his eighty four month prison sentence.

Bryant Lamar Sparks is presently serving a 20-year sentence for a 2013 first-degree escape conviction in Montgomery County. Sparks is also serving varying sentences for theft of property, fraudulent use of a credit card and receiving stolen property, for crimes committed in Montgomery County. Sparks is also serving an eight-year sentence from 2014 for theft of property in Lee County. Sparks first conviction was in 2006 in Lee County in 2006 for theft of property. In 2008 he was sentenced to three years for receiving stolen property and fraudulent use of a credit card.

Hayes, Love, Sparks, Hughes, Smith, and Dudley will all have parole hearings today.

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In 2005 Colony Nicole Wilson was sentenced to 20 years in prison for child abuse in Jefferson County. The Gadsden Times reported her infant had “13 broken bones in the first four years of her life” due to abuse by Wilson. According to the newspaper, the child sustained broken bones in her collarbone, skull, legs, arms, ribs and shoulders over a two-month period. Wilson has served 14 years and three months of her 20-year prison sentence.

In 2010 Keeondray Rashone Sterling was convicted of murder for shooting a man to death in Tuscaloosa County and was sentenced to four years and six months. In 2016 Sterling shot a nine year old boy and shot at a seventeen year old. He received a fifteen year sentence for that episode in Tuscaloosa County. Despite serving just sixty five months of that fifteen year sentence Sterling is up for parole again.

In 2004 John Hardy Jordan Jr. was sentenced to life in prison for first-degree sexual abuse in Lee County. He has served 16 just years of the life sentence and is eligible for parole.

Jimmy Wayne Karr has a long criminal history that dates back to 1983 for third-degree burglary in Clay County. He was paroled in 1984, but received a two year sentence in 2003 for a 1999 conviction for drug possession in Chambers County. Karr received a 25 year sentence for second degree sexual abuse for attacking a sleeping victim. He served only eight years and ten months of that sentence. In 2016 Karr received an eight year prison sentence for another theft of property conviction in Chambers County.

In 2002 Christopher Michael Poe was sentenced to 25 years in prison for first-degree sodomy in Shelby County. He has served 17 years of that 25-year sentence. Poe also was sentenced to 10 years in 2003 for felony DUI.

Derek Gregory Clay is serving life in prison for three first-degree robbery convictions in 2007 in Madison County and 18 months for a March 2019 conviction for illegal possession and fraudulent use of a credit card in Shelby County. He has served less than 13 years of the three life sentences. Clay was sentenced in 2002 to 10 years for the first of his robberies in Madison County, but he was released from prison early and went on to commit the three additional robberies.

Damon Lamar Calhoun is a parole violator and repeat felon with ten convictions in Mobile County. In 2015 Calhoun was sentenced to 18 years for third-degree burglary. He has served just five years, six months of the 18-year prison sentence. Calhoun was sentenced in 2016 to 15 years for third-degree robbery and breaking-and-entering a vehicle. He violated parole and was sent back to confinement in 2018. In 2011 he was sentenced to 10 years for four convictions for receiving stolen property and two convictions for third-degree burglary, and five years for breaking-and-entering a vehicle.

Jimmy Claude Harmon Jr. is a parole violator with two conviction for assault. In 1997 he was convicted in Calhoun County of third degree burglary and breaking and entering a vehicle. In 2001 he was sentenced to two years for second-degree assault in Madison County. In 2004 he was sentenced to 15 years for assault. Harmon was granted parole in 2006 but violated parole and in 2009 was sent back to prison for second-degree assault in Cleburne County. He was resentenced in 2017 to 14 years and five months for the 2009 assault. Harmon has served less than five years of the 14-year, five-month sentence.

In 2015 Christopher Dewayne Stewart was sentenced to 20 years in prison for a 2007 first-degree robbery of a Grub Mart in Etowah County in which Stewart discharged a firearm. Also in 2015 Stewart was convicted of third-degree burglary, three counts of theft of property, and two counts of unlawful breaking and entering a vehicle, all in Etowah County.. Stewart has served only 10 years, seven months of the 20-year sentence. Public records show he was granted probation at one point but then probation was revoked, and he was rearrested on April 18, 2013.

In 2018 Carlos Braxton was sentenced to eight years in prison for third-degree robbery, first-degree theft of property, unlawful breaking and entering of a vehicle and two counts of offenses against a person (Class B Felony) in Jefferson County. He has served just two years of the eight-year sentence.

In 2017 Lauren Ashley Finney was sentenced to six months for second-degree assault and a drug conviction in Mobile County but was resentenced in those cases in January 2019 to five years. She has served just one year of that five-year prison sentence.

In October 2018, Cori Noelle Lawrence was sentenced to five years in prison for second-degree assault and six years for second-degree arson, and three years for possession and receipt of a controlled substance in Covington County. She has served only one year, three months of the six-year prison sentence. Lawrence was arrested by state fire marshals for burning a trailer in Opp.

In 1998 William Ferrell Travis was sentenced to fifteen years in prison in Madison County for second degree robbery. In 2001, Travis was convicted of promoting prison contraband in Elmore County and sentenced to five years. In 2015 Travis was sentenced to three months for third degree burglary in Madison County. That was extended to ten years after he reoffended In 2016 he was sentenced to 15 years for obstruction of justice and criminal possession of a forged instrument in Madison County. He has served just three years, two months of that 15-year prison sentence.

Michael W. Vincent was sentenced in 2008 to 20 years in prison for third-degree robbery in Autauga County. He has served less than 12 years of that sentence.

The parole hearings for Vincent, Travis, Lawrence, Finney, Braxton, Stewart, Harmon, Clay, Poe, Karr, Jordan, Wilson, Sterling, and Calhoun will be on Wednesday.

Retired Judge Charlie Graddick is the Director of the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles.

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DOJ makes $14 million available to public safety agencies to respond to COVID-19

Brandon Moseley

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Thursday, U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town announced that the Department of Justice is making $850 million available to help public safety agencies respond to the challenges posed by the outbreak of COVID-19, which has already killed over 6,000 Americans, including 32 Alabamians.

The Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding program was authorized in the recent stimulus legislation signed by President Donald J. Trump (R). The program will allow eligible state, local and tribal governments to apply immediately for these critical funds. The department is moving quickly to make awards, with the goal of having funds available for drawdown within days of the award.

“Law enforcement are – and always have been very best among us. They continue to solidify that fact during this pandemic,” Town said. “It is important that our state and local partners have the resources they need to ensure public safety during this time. These additional resources will allow that to continue.”

Katherine T. Sullivan is the Office of Justice Programs Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General.

“This is an unprecedented moment in our nation’s history and an especially dangerous one for our front-line law enforcement officers, corrections officials, and public safety professionals,” said Sullivan. “We are grateful to the Congress for making these resources available and for the show of support this program represents.”

The solicitation was posted by the Bureau of Justice Assistance in the Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs (OJP) and will remain open for at least 60 days. The program can be extended as necessary. OJP will fund successful applicants as a top priority on a rolling basis as applications are received. The funds may be used to hire personnel, pay overtime costs, cover protective equipment and supplies, address correctional inmates’ medical needs and defray expenses related to the distribution of resources to hard-hit areas, among other activities.

The grant funds may be applied retroactively to January 20, 2020, subject to federal supplanting rules.

Agencies that were eligible for the fiscal year 2019 State and Local Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program are candidates for this emergency funding. A complete list of eligible jurisdictions and their allocations can be found here.

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For more information about the Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding program click here.

As of press time, there were 1,270 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Alabama. 32 Alabamians have already died. There have been deaths in Jefferson, Shelby, Mobile, Lee, Madison, Chambers, Washington, Baldwin, Jackson, Tallapoosa, Lauderdale, Marion, Etowah, and Baldwin Counties.

 

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House committee passes bill cutting out appeals court in death penalty cases

Brandon Moseley

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Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee advanced a bill preventing prisoners convicted to death from appealing their case to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals.

House Bill 275 was sponsored by State Representative Connie Rowe, R-Jasper.

“This bill was brought to me by the Lt Governor,” Will Ainsworth (R).

Rep. Jim Hill, R-Odenville, chairs the House Judiciary Committee.

The bill, as amended “Removes the Court of Criminal Appeals from the process of appealing a death penalty case,” Chairman Hill said.

State Senator Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, is the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the sponsor of the Senate version of this bill/

“You also have your federal appeals. You still have your rule 32 appeals,” Ward said.

State Representative Tim Wadsworth, R-Arley, said, “I look at it in the point of getting it right. If they are in jail you can always get them out of jail if a mistake is made. You always want to be right with death. If you remove the court of criminal appeals you increase the likelihood of not getting it right. I am not for skipping this stage in matters where a life is at stake.”

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“Looking at the records this one step appears to be redundant,” Ward said.

State Representative Alan Farley, R-McCalla, said, “We have people on death row for twenty, twenty five years. We are talking about removing one step in the criminal appeals. How many appeals are we talking about?”

Ward answered, “I can make that same trek multiple times on different procedural issues. There are several fail safes in there. There even was a stay of execution issued in the last execution.”

Farley sai, “we are not talking about one or two times. It is more like 18 times.”

State Representative Mike Ball, R-Madison, said, “There is a redundancy in the system. This cuts out a step in the procedure. The original bill, cutting out the Supreme Court, did not make any sense. All this does is remove a step from the process that does not add anything to the process.”

Rowe said that this would take two years out of the process. In 1988 a Walker country woman killed in her house. He father and mother died waiting on justice. Now her sister has passed. She has some nieces and nephews left. How long do we go without justice?

“Historically when someone is exonerated in this state it is at the federal court system,” Rowe said. “Lets get them there faster.”

Rep. David Faulker, R-Mountain Brook, said, “This eliminates the delay.”

The amended bill was given a favorable report and now can advance for consideration by the full Alabama House of Representatives.

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Nathanial Woods executed as accomplice in 2004 murders of three police officers

Eddie Burkhalter

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A Birmingham man convicted of being an accomplice in the murders of three Birmingham police officers was executed Thursday evening. 

Nathaniel Woods, 43, was executed after appeals and national media attention failed to deter Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey to intervene. Woods was convicted of being an accomplice in the murders, despite the shooter’s statements that Woods was not responsible for the deaths and that there was no plan to kill them. 

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a temporary stay in the hours before Woods was set to be executed at 6 p.m. Thursday, but Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas just before 8 p.m. lifted the stay. Woods was pronounced dead at 9:01 p.m. 

“After thorough and careful consideration of the facts surrounding the case, the initial jury’s decision, the many legal challenges and reviews, I concluded that the state of Alabama should carry out Mr. Woods’ lawfully imposed sentence this evening,” Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said in a statement after the execution. 

A jury in 2005 convicted Woods of being an accomplice to the deaths of the three Birmingham police officers – Charles Bennett, Carlos Owen and Harley Chisholm III – but the man who shot them and wounded another, Kerry Spencer, admitted to the crimes and is also serving on Holman’s death row.  

On the day the officers entered the Ensley apartment shared by Woods and Spencer, Woods surrendered and had no weapon, but the commotion startled Spencer awake in another room, and he came out firing his semi-automatic rifle, according to court records. 

During Spencer’s trial, he testified that those officers had harassed them over two visits earlier that day and that when they arrived for the third time he was asleep in a bedroom. Spencer testified that he shot the officers as a “knee-jerk reaction” when he saw one officer with his gun unholstered inside the apartment and that Woods was innocent in the deaths. 

In the days before his execution, prominent people began urging Gov. Ivey to intervene, and national media outlets covered the case. 

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Martin Luther King III, the son of the civil rights leader, wrote to Ivey asking her to stop Woods’s execution. Kim Karshadian West and O.J. Simpson both tweeted support for Woods and asked for intervention in his execution. 

U.S. Senator Doug Jones on Thursday also expressed concern over the pending execution. 

“Given the questions and mitigating issues involved in this case — and the finality of a death sentence — a delay is warranted to provide time for a thorough review of all the facts and circumstances to truly ensure that justice is done,” Jones said in a statement. 

Kimberly Chisholm Simmons, the sister of officer Harley Chisholm, killed by Spencer, in a statement before Woods’s death, asked Ivey to reconsider her decision not to intervene.  

I do not think that Nathaniel is guilty of murder. I urge Governor Ivey to reconsider her decision not to intervene. There is no harm in allowing more time for the courts to investigate. I want the new evidence to be brought forward and evaluated by new attorneys,” Simmons wrote. 

“Please do not move forward with the hasty decision to execute Nathaniel. My conscience will not let me live with this if he dies. I beg you to have mercy on him,” Simmons wrote.

 

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Opinion | The “rule of law” has some exceptions

Josh Moon

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The State of Alabama murdered a man on Thursday night. 

Murder is what you call it when someone intentionally causes the death of another human for an unjustifiable reason. 

That fits with what Alabama did to Nathaniel Woods. 

Woods didn’t kill anyone. Everyone associated with the case agreed on that. And the amount of mental gymnastics you have to perform in order to apply Alabama’s “accomplice law” to Woods’ involvement in the shooting deaths of three police officers is Cirque du Soleil worthy. 

But it didn’t matter to the State of Alabama. Or Attorney General Steve Marshall. Or Gov. Kay Ivey. Or to the U.S Supreme Court. 

Everyone was cool with sticking the needle in Woods’ arm because “the rule of law” must be followed. 

It’s weird how the importance of the “rule of law” never comes into play when discussing ineffective counsel or improper jury instructions or a judge who improperly allows the victims’ widows to recommend sentences to the jury — all of which, and more, happened in Woods’ case — but “rule of law” becomes the absolute most important thing when it’s time to carry out the execution in a flawed case. 

I mean, if the rule of law is actually that important to you, maybe start tidying up the processes that have repeatedly led to innocent men landing on Alabama’s death row, and some of them winding up dead. 

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If you need examples of this happening, let me point you to the movies made about those cases. All of them. 

If the rule of law matters to anyone, here’s what it did to Nathaniel Woods: it failed him in the biggest way. 

To understand how, you have to know the story of Woods’ arrest, so here’s the quick version. He was at a home allegedly known as a crack house, and Birmingham police were at the door to serve a warrant. These cops apparently knew Woods, and he apparently knew them. They argued, and Woods said he didn’t believe he had a warrant and refused to come out. 

So, the cops went in. According to court records from the prosecutors, Woods almost immediately surrendered and asked not to be maced. 

Not understanding what was happening, Woods’ alleged accomplice, Kerry Spencer, who was asleep in a back room when cops broke through the door to arrest Woods, picked up an assault rifle and came out firing. He killed three of the cops and injured a fourth. 

This is why Nathaniel Woods was murdered by Alabama on Thursday. 

For another man’s crimes. 

Oh, there was another explanation — one pushed by the prosecutors and by Marshall and Ivey the last two days — that makes so little sense it’s hard to believe grownups are repeating it. 

In order to charge Woods under Alabama’s accomplice law, which allows the state to hold people responsible for crimes they cause even if they’re not the person who commits the act, the state had to show that Woods intentionally lured the officers into the home knowing they would be shot. 

To prove this, the state presented evidence that Woods and Spencer had argued with two of the officers earlier in the day, and that Woods had allegedly told one officer that if he would “take off that badge,” Woods would “(mess) him up.” There were allegedly other threats made back and forth. And then everyone went on their way. 

But according to the prosecutors — and wrap your head around this — Woods knew they would be back with a warrant later and set up a trap to murder them. 

That’s the only way the accomplice statute can be applied here. Woods had to know the shooting was going to occur and he had to cause it to happen, which means he had to anticipate the police would come back looking for him and he had to arrange for Spencer to shoot them (or at least know that Spencer would shoot them). 

For the record, Spencer finds that just as silly as you. He has been consistent in his testimony that Woods had no idea that he was going to shoot the officers and that Woods played no role in the shooting. 

Didn’t matter. Woods was still arrested and charged, and that was the first failure. 

He received a lawyer who had no experience with capital murder cases and advised his client that a plea deal offered by the state for 20-25 years — Marshall inexplicably denied in a letter on Wednesday that a deal was offered, despite this plea deal being mentioned numerous times in court filings — shouldn’t be taken because the state had to prove that he participated in the crime. This was bad advice. 

So, Woods was failed again. 

A number of appeals deadlines were missed — failed again — and Woods’ ever-changing attorneys — failed again — attempted to file late appeals for rehearings. The criminal appeals court and Alabama Supreme Court refused to hear those late appeals, which argued ineffective counsel, among other things — and he was failed again. 

And, of course, you know the failures that happened on Thursday night, when all of the people who could have stopped this travesty instead hid behind a “rule of law” excuse to do nothing. To keep up the appearances of tough-on-crime politicians. To tout their “law and order” record. 

Which is odd, because you’d think stopping improper executions would be part of law and order.

 

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