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USA | States Continue to Oppose DNA Testing in Death Penalty Appeals, Attorneys Ask Why Don’t They Want to Learn the Truth?

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The last 3 men scheduled for execution in Georgia said they did not commit the killing and that DNA testing that was not available at the time of trial could prove it. In 2 of the cases, victim family members supported the request for testing. Prosecutors opposed the requests, and the courts refused to allow the testing. 2 of the 3 men were executed, with doubts still swirling as to their guilt.
Shawn Nolan, a federal defender who represented Georgia prisoner Ray “Jeff” Cromartie, summed up the sentiments of the prisoners, families, and defense attorneys in these cases. “I’d like to know what the state is so scared of,” he said. “Why are they afraid of the truth? This is sad and so disturbing.”
“We have the capability of testing a wide range of forensic evidence that we couldn’t test in the past,” said Death Penalty Information Center Executive Director Robert Dunham. “It is a powerful tool to get to the truth and to get important answers as to whether the criminal legal system has b…

Alabama | Execution set in 2004 murders of 3 Birmingham police officers

Nathaniel Woods
Nathaniel Woods is scheduled to be executed by injection on March 5 at a south Alabama prison

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — An Alabama man convicted of killing three police officers in 2004 is set to be executed next month, state judges ordered.

Nathaniel Woods is scheduled to be executed by injection on March 5 at a south Alabama prison, the court said Thursday. 

Woods and co-defendant Kerry Spencer were convicted of capital murder for the 2004 killings of Birmingham police officers Carlos Owen, Harley A. Chisolm III and Charles R. Bennett. Spencer was also sentenced to death for the killings.

Prosecutors said the officers were gunned down in an ambush as they tried to serve a misdemeanor warrant on Woods at a home where he and Spencer sold crack cocaine.

“By the time help arrived, the other three officers were dead. Officer Bennett was discovered with a smoking hole in his face, and Officers Owen and Chisolm were found in the apartment. Each had died from multiple gunshot wounds," the Alabama attorney general's office in a request to schedule the execution date.

According to newspaper reports, prosecutors said at the 2005 trial that Woods helped set an ambush for the officers even though Spencer was the trigger man, but defense lawyer maintained Spencer was responsible for the killings even though Woods had boasted about them.

A jury convicted Woods of multiple counts of capital murder and of the attempted murder of another officer. A jury voted 10-2 to recommend a death sentence.

State attorneys said that while Woods was awaiting trial, deputies found a drawing of a bullet-ridden police car in his cell and song lyrics about killing such as, “Haven’t you ever heard of a killa I drop pigs like Kerry Spencer."

The U.S. Supreme Court turned down his appeal last year. Attorneys for Woods unsuccessfully appealed his conviction, arguing that he had ineffective counsel and that the trial had multiple errors, including the admission of the song lyrics and drawings in his cell.

His attorneys filed a new challenge last week related to what they said was a lack of information given to inmates when they had to select if nitrogen hypoxia, an execution method authorized but not yet implemented by the state, would be their preferred execution method. Woods did not make a selection.

Source: The Associated Press, Staff, February 1, 2020


Nathaniel Woods scheduled to be executed on March 5 in 2004 shooting deaths of 3 Birmingham police officers


A man convicted of capital murder in the shooting deaths of 3 Birmingham police officers in 2004 is set to be executed in March.

Nathaniel Woods, 44, is set to die by lethal injection on March 5 at William C. Holman prison in Atmore. The Alabama Supreme Court released its order setting the date on Thursday afternoon.

Woods was convicted in December 2005 of capital murder for the June 17, 2004 shooting deaths of Birmingham police officers Carlos Owen, Harley A. Chisholm III, and Charles R. Bennett while they were serving a warrant at an apartment in Ensley.

He also was convicted of attempting to murder Officer Michael Collins.

It was the deadliest day in the Birmingham police department’s history.

The jury recommended by a vote of 10 to 2 that Woods be sentenced to death. The judge followed the jury’s recommendation and sent Woods to death row.

Woods’s co-defendant, Kerry M. Spencer, was also convicted of capital murder and was sentenced to death. He is awaiting an execution date. It was Spencer, not Woods, who shot the officers.

The Alabama Attorney General’s Office asked the state’s highest court to set a date for Woods’ execution on October 29.

Court records show on June 17, 2004, the four Birmingham police officers were in the process of arresting and taking into custody Woods at a west Birmingham apartment where he dealt drugs with Spencer.

After the officers arrived, and several had entered the home, Spencer opened fire. Owen, Chisholm, and Bennett were dead when help arrived, while Collins was suffering from gunshot wounds. “Each (of the 3 officers) had died from multiple gunshot wounds,” according to the state’s motion asking for an execution date.

“Responding officers found an SKS assault rifle in the grass outside, a handgun in the bathroom, and 2 long guns in a bedroom. The officers’ bulletproof vests had been pierced, typical of damage sustained by high-powered rifle fire,” the motion states.

“When Woods was located, he was sitting with other men on the porch of (a neighbor’s) house nearby, apparently ‘very relaxed.’ He gave his full name and was found to have two .22 caliber bullets in his pocket. Kerry Spencer was eventually pulled out of (the neighbor’s) attic," the motion states. A “doorman" at the drug house testified Woods and Spencer sold mostly crack cocaine to 100-150 customers per day, according to court records.

On December 5, Woods’ attorneys asked in a motion to the Alabama Supreme Court that the court “fully review Mr. Woods' constitutional claim that he was denied the effective representation of counsel guaranteed by the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.”

“Specifically, this Court should consider how trial counsel's performance during the penalty phase of Mr. Woods' capital trial was woefully deficient. But for counsel's errors, Mr. Woods almost certainly would not have been sentenced to death,” the motion from attorney J.D. Lloyd said.

The attorney stated in his motion that the court “should not set a date of execution until it has more fully examined trial counsel’s performance during the penalty phase of Mr. Woods’ trial.”

The execution date comes after years of appeals.

The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed Woods’ convictions and sentence in 2007 after a remand for an amended sentencing order, and the Alabama Supreme Court denied Woods’ appeal in 2009. The United States Supreme Court denied to review the case on February 22, 2010.

Woods filed an appeal in Jefferson County circuit court in December, 2008.

The circuit court dismissed the petition in 2010, and the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the dismissal in April 2016. The Alabama Supreme Court again denied to review the case. Woods also filed a federal lawsuit in October 2016, but the district court dismissed the case in 2018. He asked the United States Supreme Court to review that claim, but they too denied to review the case on October 7, 2019.

Source: al.com, Staff, February 1, 2020


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