Alabama Executes Glenn Boyd Despite Jury’s Life Verdict


The State of Alabama executed Glenn Boyd today even though his jury decided that the death penalty was not appropriate in his case and that he should be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. The jury’s life verdict was overruled by a judge who at the time of the trial and sentencing was committing crimes and was later shamed into resigning under threat of prosecution.

Mr. Boyd was too poor to hire a lawyer to represent him at trial. His appointed counsel had never been involved in a death penalty case and did not get paid for more than 50 hours of work out-of-court. Mr. Boyd’s lawyers did not investigate reasons to spare their client’s life or inquire into his background. As a result, Mr. Boyd’s jury heard no evidence about the pervasive abuse, familial violence and alcoholism, and neglect he endured as a child and teenager. A federal judge concluded that Mr. Boyd was entitled to a new sentencing trial due to ineffective assistance of counsel but the Court of Appeals reversed the grant of relief.

Mr. Boyd’s jury — comprised of jurors who were willing and able to impose the death penalty — nonetheless decided that, despite the gravity of the crime, the death penalty was inappropriate. Calhoun County Judge Harold Quattlebaum then dismissed the jurors as “emotional” and substituted his own judgment for theirs. He overrode the jury’s life verdict and condemned Mr. Boyd to death.

At the time, Judge Quattlebaum was engaged in a “consistent and persistent pattern of fraud” which ultimately led him to resign in disgrace. According to the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission, Quattlebaum was committing insurance fraud, stealing thousands of dollars from insurance companies to alleviate problems stemming from his own financial mismanagement and gambling expenses. He was facing trial in the Alabama Court of the Judiciary when he resigned quietly in 1990.

Alabama is the only state in the country that allows elected judges to override jury life verdicts without any meaningful restrictions. The override in Mr. Boyd’s case is tainted by the trial judge’s criminal behavior: Quattlebaum faced criminal prosecution by the same District Attorney who was seeking the death penalty for Mr. Boyd.

Mr. Boyd’s petition for a stay of execution was denied by the Alabama Supreme Court on Tuesday and the United States Supreme Court declined to grant a stay earlier today.

Mr. Boyd is the second person executed in Alabama so far this year, and the first to be put to death by the state since Governor Robert Bentley took office. The governor did not grant Mr. Boyd’s request for clemency despite the corruption surrounding the judge’s override.