Two men, Montez Spradley and Demetrius Jackson, will be leaving Alabama’s death row after both were resentenced to reduced sentences last week. Montez Spradley was sentenced to ten years in prison, and Demetrius Jackson was resentenced to life imprisonment without parole.
Demetrius Jackson was convicted of capital murder in the 2006 shooting death of a Fairfield police officer in the Bessemer Division of Jefferson County. The jury decided he should be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole, but in 2008, the trial judge overrode the jury’s verdict and sentenced Mr. Jackson to death.
EJI appealed, and on March 29, 2013, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals found that the trial judge failed to properly consider the jury’s verdict at sentencing. It sent the case back to the trial court for it to reconsider its sentencing decision, giving appropriate weight to the jury’s decision.
The trial court complied with that order, and considered the jury’s verdict to be “a very strong non-statutory mitigating circumstance” which “demonstrated ‘overwhelming support'” for a life sentence and, as required by Alabama law, gave it “great weight.” Together with evidence of Mr. Jackson’s difficult family life and history of abuse, and the fact that the victim’s family did not request a death sentence, the trial court found the jury’s verdict outweighed the aggravating circumstances. Accordingly, on July 19, 2013, the court issued a new order sentencing Mr. Jackson to life imprisonment without parole.
Montez Spradley was convicted in 2008 of capital murder in the 2004 shooting death of a lunchroom cashier in Jefferson County. The ACLU Capital Punishment Project appealed Mr. Spradley’s case and his conviction was reversed on September 30, 2011, because the Court of Criminal Appeals found that the bulk of the State’s evidence against Mr. Spradley was improperly admitted, resulting in a “miscarriage of justice.” The court ordered a new trial.
In May, a key State witness testified at a hearing that she collected more than $10,000 in reward money after she lied in testimony that helped convict Mr. Spradley at trial.
On July 19, 2013, Mr. Spradley agreed to plead guilty to felony murder and witness intimidation in exchange for a sentence of ten years in prison. Serious questions about Mr. Spradley’s guilt contributed to the very reduced sentence.