Attorney General: Alabama Death Penalty Law “Constitutional”

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U.S. Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court is refusing to hear arguments in a case involving Alabama’s death penalty sentencing system.

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange announced Monday in a statement that the decision is a reaffirmation that the state’s capital sentencing law is constitutional. Alabama is the only state with judicial override, which allows a judge to impose the death penalty in cases where a jury recommends a life sentence.

Three Alabama death row inmates, Thomas Arthur, Jerry Bohannon, and Aubrey Shaw, petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court in a challenge to Alabama’s law, citing the 2016 case Hurst v. Florida, which determined Florida’s similar death sentencing system was unconstitutional.

“Convicted murders have repeatedly challenged Alabama’s death penalty sentencing system because it allows for judicial override similar to Florida’s law,” Strange says. “However, Alabama law also holds that a jury must unanimously find an aggravating factor at either the guilt or sentencing phase—such as when the murder was committed during a robbery, a rape, or a kidnapping – before determining a death sentence.  This is a significant distinction between Alabama law and Florida’s law which was ruled unconstitutional last year by the Supreme Court.”