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Alabamians gather at State House to support HB27: Clemency for Rocky Myers

HB27 would make Alabama’s ban on judicial override apply to those currently on death row. 

Alabamians gather at the Justice for Rocky Myers rally outside the Alabama Statehouse.
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Dozens of Alabamians gathered at the Alabama Statehouse on Thursday to show their support for House Bill 27, a bill sponsored by Rep. Chris England that would make Alabama’s ban on judicial override apply to those currently on death row. 

In 2017, as one of her first acts as Alabama Governor, Kay Ivey signed a bill into law that barred judges from overriding jury sentences in capital cases (called judicial override) going forward, but the new law was not applied to people already on death row at the time. Today, 33 people given a death sentence through judicial override remain on death row, even though their death sentences would now be considered illegal.

“Alabama was the last state to ban judicial override and it’s a miscarriage of justice that we haven’t applied that law to people currently on death row,” said sponsor of HB27, Representative Chris England. “My fellow lawmakers have the opportunity to do the right thing and support this bill. I hope they’ll join me in bringing Alabama in line with the rest of the country.”

LeAndrew Hood, the son of Rocky Myers, one of the men currently on death row due to judicial override, spoke at the rally, as did a member of his legal team. Rocky, a Black man with an intellectual disability, was sentenced in 1994 to life without the possibility of parole by a jury. But, the judge went against the wishes of the jury, overrode their decision, and imposed a death sentence. 

“It was so exciting to see the outpouring of support for Rocky today,” said Miriam Bankston, a member of Rocky’s legal team. “He is such an amazing soul and he is truly overwhelmed by the number of people in his corner. Passing HB27 would ensure that the jurors’ voices are honored in Rocky’s case and in 32 other cases, and it would help restore faith in the system.”

In addition to asking the legislature to pass HB27, Amnesty International also delivered thousands of petitions to Alabama Governor Kay Ivey on Thursday, asking her to grant clemency to Rocky Myers. The petition delivery is part of Amnesty International’s “Write for Rights” campaign that unites activists around the world in their desire to take action on behalf of people whose human rights have been violated. Worldwide, nearly 700,000 actions have been taken in support of Rocky. 

“With a swipe of her pen, Governor Ivey can end the injustice that has tarnished Rocky Myers’ case for three decades,” said Amnesty International’s Alabama State Death Penalty Abolition Coordinator TJ Riggs. “The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, and, pending abolition, we urge her to halt all executions in the state and conduct a review of Rocky’s case as well as others on death row who were sentenced under judicial override.”

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On January 25, 2024, the state of Alabama executed Kenneth Smith, who was also imposed a death sentence under the now outlawed practice of judicial override. His wife, Deanna Smith, also spoke. Other speakers included Grassroots Community Organizer Callie Greer, and Esther Brown from Project Hope to Abolish the Death Penalty.

“It’s deplorable and nonsensical that the state of Alabama continues to kill people whose death sentences would not even be legal today,” said Riggs. “Alabama legislators and Gov. Kay Ivey could put a stop to this now, they just have to find the political courage to do so.”

Thursday’s rally was organized by Amnesty International USA and ACLU of Alabama. 

The Alabama Political Reporter is a daily political news site devoted to Alabama politics. We provide accurate, reliable coverage of policy, elections and government.

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