The Alabama Supreme Court has ordered further review for two EJI clients on Alabama’s death row: Christopher Floyd and Oscar Doster. In separate appeals, EJI sought additional review in each case, and the State’s highest court will now address important constitutional claims in each case.
Christopher Floyd was tried and sentenced to death by an all-white jury after the Houston County prosecutor barred from jury service 10 of the 11 African Americans who were qualified to serve as jurors at his trial.
African Americans constitute 27% of the population of Houston County and the prosecutor’s office has a documented history of illegal racial discrimination in jury selection. In a recent report, EJI documented that 8 out of 10 African Americans qualified for jury service have been struck by Houston County prosecutors in death penalty cases.
The Alabama Supreme Court will address the prosecutor’s discriminatory exclusion of African Americans and women from Mr. Floyd’s jury. It will also address the trial court’s refusal to allow evidence that Mr. Floyd’s cousin actually committed the crime and then coerced him to falsely confess.
Oscar Doster was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in Covington County, Alabama, even though the prosecution agreed he did not kill the victim and was not present when the victim was shot by another man, and despite the jury’s unanimous sentencing verdict for life imprisonment without parole.
Alabama law requires the State to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant specifically intended to kill the victim in order to convict him of capital murder.
The record indicates that Mr. Doster’s jury had real questions about whether the State proved intent, and at the sentencing phase, it unanimously rejected the death penalty for M. Doster. The trial judge nonetheless overrode the jury’s life-imprisonment-without-parole verdict and sentenced Mr. Doster to death.
In Mr. Doster’s case, the Alabama Supreme Court court will address whether the State introduced enough reliable evidence to convict Mr. Doster of capital murder.