Alabama Man Formerly on Death Row Is Sentenced to Life


Carlos Kennedy was sentenced to life without parole on May 5 after a new trial at which he represented himself.

Mr. Kennedy was arrested in 2010 and charged with capital murder in Mobile, Alabama. When he first appeared in court, he asked to represent himself. The court granted that request, but later reversed its order and forced Mr. Kennedy to be represented by appointed counsel. He was convicted and sentenced to death.

On appeal, EJI argued that Mr. Kennedy’s constitutional right to choose whether he wanted to represent himself at trial had been violated. Last summer, the Court of Criminal Appeals agreed and ordered a new trial.

Mr. Kennedy represented himself at the new trial, and he was convicted of capital murder on May 5. The same day, however, the jury rejected the death penalty for Mr. Kennedy and decided that he should be sentenced to life without parole.

Trial judge Charles Graddick sentenced Mr. Kennedy to life without parole in accordance with the jury’s verdict. The Lagniappe Weekly reported that the judge said he could override the jury’s verdict and impose the death penalty, but cited the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Hurst v. Florida, which struck down Florida’s capital sentencing statute. Because Alabama’s law is nearly identical to Florida’s, the judge reasoned that if he overrode the jury’s life verdict, “I know we’d be right back here again in the shape we’re in today five years after this happened.”

Last week, the Supreme Court granted review in a case challenging Alabama’s death penalty scheme, vacated the death sentence, and remanded for reconsideration in light of Hurst.

After the judge sentenced Mr. Kennedy to life without parole, the victim’s granddaughter told reporters that the family was relieved to have some closure. “[N]ow I don’t have to worry about going back to court to deal with” challenges to the death sentence, she said.