Governor Kay Ivey signs jury override bill

In one of her first official acts as Governor, Kay Ivey, on Tuesday, April 11, signed into law a bill that says juries, not judges, have the final say on whether to impose the death penalty in capital murder cases.
Ivey signed the bill, which had been passed by the Alabama House of Representatives on April 4, by a vote of 78-19. The same bill had previously passed the Alabama Senate by a vote of 30- 1.
Alabama was the only state left in the nation had these judicial override provisions.
Senator Hank Sanders of Selma had sponsored the bill in the Senate for several years along with a bill requiring a moratorium of the death penalty until Alabama studies and reviews the equity of the death penalty.
Sanders said, “Senator Dick Brewbaker, a Republican from Montgomery asked me if he could sponsor the jury override bill in this session and I agreed because my interest was to end this practice.”
According to the Equal Justice Initiative. Alabama judges have overridden jury recommendations 112 times. In 101 of those cases, the judges gave a death sentence. Sanders said that a quarter of the persons presently on death row are there because the judge overrode the jury’s decision on their case.
Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, sponsored a bill to end judicial override in the House. On the House floor, England substituted Brewbaker’s bill for his, and it won final passage. This bill was pending the Governor’s signature when Robert Bentley resigned and Kay Ivey moved up from Lieutenant Governor to the Governor’s position.
“Having judicial override almost undermines the constitutional right to trial by a jury of your peers,” England said.  England’s bill, as introduced, would also have required the consent of all 12 jurors to give a death sentence. Current law requires at least 10 jurors. Brewbaker’s bill left the threshold to impose the death penalty at 10 jurors.
Ebony Howard, associate legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center, issued a statement applauding the bill’s passage.
“Alabama should do everything it can to ensure that an innocent person is never executed,” Howard said. “The bipartisan effort to pass a bill that would keep a judge from overriding a jury’s vote in capital cases is a step in the right direction. As of today, Alabama is one step closer to joining every other state in our nation in prohibiting judicial override in the sentencing phase of death penalty cases.”
Alabama Arise, a statewide advocacy group on social justice issues and ending poverty in Alabama, also supported passage of the bill as one of its legislative priorities for this session.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s