Alabama Supreme Court Grants Review in Three Death Penalty Cases Handled by EJI


The Alabama Supreme Court recently decided to review the cases of three inmates on death row: Brandon Washington, Brent Martin, and Jimmy Killingsworth. In each case, questions have been raised about the fairness of the capital trial and the propriety of the death sentence.

Brandon Washington, then an 18-year-old Miles College freshman with no criminal history, was convicted and sentenced to death in the 2005 shooting of a Radio Shack employee in Jefferson County, Alabama, even though no physical evidence linked him to the crime. The Alabama Supreme Court granted review to address highly improper evidence admitted during the penalty phase of Mr. Washington’s trial.

Brent Martin’s case raises claims based on bedrock constitutional principles: the trial court failed to give the jury any other option besides convicting of capital murder if it found that Mr. Martin was too intoxicated to form the intent to kill; and the State illegally struck African Americans from serving on Mr. Martin’s jury, in violation of the Equal Protection Clause.

In Jimmy Killingsworth’s case, the court will review a number of issues raised by EJI’s petition, including that the trial court sentenced Mr. Killingsworth to death despite the fact that the jury rendered a verdict of life without parole, and whether his right to trial by an impartial jury was violated when a woman who stated she could not be fair because of her relationship with the victim’s family was allowed to sit on the jury.

The Alabama Supreme Court will address the issues raised in these cases and decide whether each individual received a fair trial and whether the death penalty was appropriate in each case.

EJI’s success in obtaining review in these three cases follows its win of review for Esau Jackson in May.