On January 23, 2009, EJI won a ruling from the Alabama Supreme Court establishing that Alabama prisoners are entitled to credit towards their sentences for time spent incarcerated. The decision came in the case of former Alabama death row prisoner Wesley Quick and holds that Mr. Quick will get credit for the time he spent on death row before he was exonerated.
Mr. Quick was arrested in November 1995 and charged with capital murder and several unrelated burglaries. In 1997, he was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death.
Mr. Quick spent six years on Alabama’s death row before he was exonerated. In April 2003, Mr. Quick was acquitted on retrial and taken off death row.
After his exoneration, Mr. Quick remained incarcerated because the state decided to prosecute him on the burglary charges that had been pending since 1995. Mr. Quick pleaded guilty to those charges in October 2003 and was sentenced to two 33-year sentences and one 10-year sentence, to run consecutively. The prosecution argued that Mr. Quick was not entitled to credit against his sentence for the time he had spent imprisoned on death row.
On appeal, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that Mr. Quick was not entitled to credit for the time he spent wrongfully condemned to death because the cause of that confinement was the capital-murder charge, not the burglary charges.
EJI lawyers believed that decision did not correctly interpret Alabama law, and agreed to represent Mr. Quick on appeal to the Alabama Supreme Court. They argued that, because he was acquitted of the capital-murder charge, Mr. Quick should receive credit against his burglary sentence for the entire time he spent incarcerated, starting from his arrest on November 5, 1995, until his acquittal of capital murder on April 21, 2003.
The Alabama Supreme Court agreed and reversed the lower court’s decision. It held that Mr. Quick was entitled to credit for all of the time he spent incarcerated pending trial on the burglary charges, which included the six years he spent on death row.
The court insisted on an interpretation of Alabama’s statute that avoids permitting any amount of time spent incarcerated to be “wasted” or not counted towards any sentence. The court’s decision makes clear that Alabama prisoners have a right to credit for time served, including for time served on a sentence that is later vacated.