HB 14 by Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, would require unanimous jury sentencing in death penalty cases and make the ban on judicial override retroactive. Here’s why Alabama Arise supports this legislation:
Alabama is one of only two states* that doesn’t require a unanimous jury verdict to sentence someone to death.
- In Alabama, only 10 jurors need to agree to sentence someone to death. Every other state with a death penalty requires a unanimous jury sentencing verdict.
- The Supreme Court recently ruled in Ramos v. Louisiana that criminal convictions for serious offenses must be unanimous, because the Constitution requires a jury to find a person guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
- Decisions to impose a death sentence should have to be unanimous, too. There’s a reason nearly every other state with the death penalty requires unanimous jury sentencing in death penalty cases: taking someone’s life isn’t something that can be undone.
- Alarmingly, one person is exonerated for every eight people executed from Alabama’s death row.
Judicial override ended in 2017, but more than 30 people are still on death row in Alabama because a judge overruled the jury’s sentence.
- Until 2017, Alabama was the last state allowing judges to override a jury’s decision to impose a life sentence and instead sentence someone to death.
- Judges used this practice, known as judicial override, to undermine the sentencing decisions made by juries. This practice was one of the factors that contributed to Alabama’s consistent top-five ranking in executions per capita.
- Judicial override in Alabama ended in 2017, but that legislation didn’t benefit everyone because the ban was not retroactive.
- More than 30 people now on Alabama’s death row would benefit from this provision as they were put there by a judge who undermined a jury’s decision not to execute someone.
It’s time for Alabama to end outdated death penalty practices: Pass Rep. England’s HB 14
- Alabama is one of only two states that doesn’t require a unanimous jury verdict to sentence someone to death.
- Judicial override ended in 2017, but more than 30 people are still on death row in Alabama because a judge overruled the jury’s sentence.
*Florida passed a law in 2023 that allows a non-unanimous jury to impose a death sentence in the state.