Judicial Override in Alabama: A Singular Example in Death Sentencing
Ream, Michael, Judicature
A new report sheds light on death penalty sentencing procedures in Alabama, one of only three states where judges can override jury verdicts to impose the death penalty -and the only state where judges regularly do so.
As detailed in The Death Penalty in Alabama: Judge Override from the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama is alone among the 34 states that have the death penalty in allowing judges, largely through their sole discretion, to override jury verdicts of life imprisonment and impose a sentence of death. Delaware and Florida also allow judicial override, but under much stricter standards than in Alabama, and no one is on death row in Delaware as a result of override, while no death sentences have been imposed by override in Florida since 1999. Meanwhile, over 20 percent of Alabama's death row inmates were sentenced to death through judicial override.
The report also examines the circumstances by which judges come to the bench in Alabama: trial and appellate judges in Alabama are elected, and thus may be subject to political considerations when considering overridejury verdicts in capital cases. …