Alabama Supreme Court Rules That Death Penalty Statute Is Still Valid


Today the Alabama Supreme Court upheld the state’s death penalty statute despite recent rulings holding similar statutes unconstitutional.

The United States Supreme Court recently ruled in Hurst v. Florida that procedures for sentencing people to death that are similar to Alabama’s are unconstitutional.  Since then, the Court has ordered that several Alabama cases be reviewed by the Alabama appellate courts in light of this ruling.

In August, the Delaware Supreme Court struck down the state’s death penalty statute based on the Hurst decision, finding that its statute violates the Sixth Amendment right to trial by jury.  The Florida legislature in March also changed its law, in response to the Hurst decision, and abolished the practice of allowing death sentences by judicial override.

Today, in the appeal of death row prisoner Jerry Bohannon, the Alabama Supreme held that “no reason exists to disturb” Mr. Bohannon’s sentence or Alabama’s capital statute in light of Hurst v. Florida.

Alabama is also the only state with a capital sentencing system that permits a judge to override a jury’s verdict of a life sentence.  There are 101 people who have been sentenced to death despite jury verdicts of life.