Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

Legislature

Bill would require unanimous jury for death penalty — and apply retroactively

Rep. Chris England’s bill would also apply in cases of judicial override, which the Legislature ended in 2017.

STOCK

Under current law, only 10 of 12 jurors must agree on the death penalty to sentence someone to death in Alabama.

In the past, a judge could also overrule the jury and impose the death sentence regardless of the jury’s decision in a process called judicial override.

The Alabama Legislature ended judicial override in 2017, but the final version of the bill did not apply retroactively, meaning everyone sentenced to death by judicial override prior to the passage of the law remains on death row.

A bill pre-filed by Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, would remove those individuals from death row, as well as any others sentenced to death by a jury of 10 or 11 voters.

“My aspirational goal would be to get rid of the death penalty, but that’s very unlikely at the moment,” England said. “We need to make it as hard as possible for us to put someone to death. We’re talking about life here and talking about the state of Alabama executing someone on its citizens’ behalf.”

In addition to amending the current law to require a unanimous verdict, the bill adds a section ordering the resentencing of individuals sentenced prior to the effective date of the act.

“It takes a unanimous jury to convict someone of a crime, why not take a unanimous jury to impose the penalty for that crime?” England said. “Especially when you’re talking about putting someone to death. Over the course of history, if we decided that judicial override was wrong and we got rid of it, and there are people still on death row who were sentenced as a result of judicial overreach, they should be awarded that same deference. We decided that was wrong.”

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

More from APR

Legislature

The bill would offer an opportunity for certain individuals sentenced to life without parole to have a judge consider reducing or ending their sentence.

Opinion

The Alabama Legislature is a very conservative body. It has super Republican majorities in both chambers.

Featured Opinion

A conversation about what Alabama values with its actions.

Prisons

"An unbelievable evil was unleashed tonight in Alabama," Smith's spiritual adviser said. "That was torture."