Capital Punishment in the United States Explained

In our Explainer series, Fair Punishment Project lawyers help unpackage some of the most complicated issues in the criminal justice system. We break down the problems behind the headlines - like bail, civil asset forfeiture, or the Brady doctrine - so that everyone can understand them. Wherever possible, we try to utilize the stories of those affected by the criminal justice system to show how these laws and principles should work, and how they often fail. We will update our Explainers monthly to keep them current. Read our updated explainer here.
To beat the clock on the expiration of its lethal injection drug supply, this past April, Arkansas tried to execute 8 men over 1 days. The stories told in frantic legal filings and clemency petitions revealed a deeply disturbing picture. Ledell Lee may have had an intellectual disability that rendered him constitutionally ineligible for the death penalty, but he had a spate of bad lawyers who failed to timely present evidence of this claim -…

Will Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey grant clemency to death row inmates?

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has been in office less than three weeks and she will soon face a life and death decision.

As governor, Ivey has the power to commute the death sentence of an inmate to life or grant a reprieve to delay an execution. 

The next one is the execution of Tommy Arthur, which is set for May 25. 14 days later the state also plans to execute Robert Melson, the man convicted in the 1994 slayings of three Popeye's restaurant employees in Gadsden.

What will Ivey do?

"The Governor is aware of the scheduled execution," Ivey's press secretary, Eileen Jones, stated in an email to AL.com regarding Arthur's execution. "She realized the serious responsibility she has as Governor regarding an execution. She plans to meet with the appropriate authorities to thoroughly review before making a final decision," she stated.

Only once since executions were reinstated in Alabama in the early 1980s, after a nationwide pause over the constitutionality of the death penalty, has an Alabama governor commuted the sentence of a death row inmate. Former Gov. Fob James did it with Judith Ann Neelley.

Governors almost never stop executions

"Have they weighed on me? "Yes they have. Very much so. And they should. We are talking about a human life in each case." Gov. Robert Bentley on the decision to commute or allow a state execution to take place

Former Gov. Bob Riley in 2007 stayed 1 of Arthur's executions for 45 days so the state could put in place a new lethal injection protocol. Arthur also had stays of executions 6 other times by courts. Next month's execution is the 8th one set.

On Wednesday Ivey, after consulting with her legal counsel, denied a request by Arthur's attorney to have DNA testing performed on a wig that prosecutors say was worn by the person who killed Troy Wicker, the man Arthur was convicted of shooting to death in a 1982 murder for hire plot.

A forensic expert had testified at a hearing in 2009 that he couldn't find any genetic material to test for DNA comparison. Arthur has been convicted by 3 different juries.

Denial of the DNA testing wasn't the 1st time Ivey has faced a decision about Alabama's death penalty in the short time she has had in office.

In one of her 1st acts Ivey also signed a bill into law that does away with judicial override - the process that had allowed judges to ignore jury recommendations for life without parole sentences and instead impose death. 

Alabama had been the only state that still allowed judicial override after Florida and Delaware did away with it last year.

Source: al.com, April 30, 2017

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  1. Florida did not entirely do away with judicial override ... innocent William "Tommy" Zeigler has been on Florida's death row for over 40 years because of malicious, prejudicial judicial override - and Governor Rick Scott knows it. Tommy has recently been denied additional DNA tests; the initial DNA tests confirmed his unwavering story and forced the prosecution to crime up with another fictional theory of the crime. Tommy was framed in Florida's 9th Judicial Circuit, where newly elected State Attorney Aramis Ayala has been under direct fire from Governor Scott for refusing to call for the death penalty in prosecutions.


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