Here’s a rather disturbing story. Alabama is the only state in the nation that allows judges to overrule juries on death penalty decisions with no standards at all on when they can and cannot intervene and nullify a jury ruling.
AS A follow-up to last week’s discussion on the death penalty, I wanted to highlight a new report (pdf) from the Equal Justice Initiative. I hadn’t realised this, but in per-capita terms, Alabama beats the notoriously intransigent Texas in both death sentences and executions, and a unique feature of their system is judicial override. That is, in Alabama judges, who are elected, can override the verdict of the jury and change a life-without-parole sentence to death.
And this is the result, from the report itself:
Since 1976, Alabama judges have overridden jury verdicts 107 times. Although
judges have authority to override life or death verdicts, in 92% of overrides elected judges have overruled jury verdicts of life to impose the death penalty…
Judge override is the primary reason why Alabama has the highest per capita death sentencing rate and execution rate in the country. last year, with a state population of 4.5 million people, Alabama imposed more new death sentences than texas, with a population of 24 million.
Holy cow. You have to work overtime to have a worse death penalty record than Texas. To have a worse record with 1/5 the population? That’s mind boggling.