The Alabama Supreme Court has scheduled an execution date for death row prisoner William Boyd. The state is set to put Mr. Boyd to death on March 31, 2011, even though his jury decided he should not be executed.
This is the second execution date in Alabama so far this year. Alabama executed Leroy White on January 13, 2011, over strong opposition from the family of the crime victim and in spite of the jury’s verdict sentencing him to life imprisonment without parole.
Like Leroy White, Mr. Boyd’s jury decided he should be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole, but his trial judge overrode the jury’s verdict and sentenced him to death. Alabama is the only state in the country that allows elected judges to override jury life verdicts without any meaningful restrictions.
In 2007, a federal court reversed Mr. Boyd’s death sentence because his trial lawyer failed to investigate and present mitigating evidence to the jury or the trial judge, including a wealth of evidence that his character had been shaped by a childhood characterized by continual gross poverty, physical and emotional abuse, neglect, and humiliations at the hands of his cruel and alcoholic father and stepfather, mentally disturbed mother, and loving but severely alcoholic grandparents.
The federal district court held that “defense counsel did not devise a professionally-competent, mitigation ‘strategy’ prior to trial, nor did they make an informed ‘tactical choice’ to present the penalty-phase case in the manner it was put before the jury.” That decision was later reversed by a federal appellate court.