Nathaniel Woods and the Race to Execute People

Updated 03.05.20

Today, the state is scheduled to execute Nathaniel Woods despite the fact that his case presents serious questions about the fairness and reliability of Alabama’s death penalty system.

There is no dispute that Mr. Woods did not kill anyone. His conviction and death sentence is based on an accomplice liability provision that raises a lot of questions about whether such a scheme provides a fair basis for executing someone.

Following a trial where the jury could not agree on the propriety of a death sentence, Mr. Woods’s appeals have been shortened and expedited because he did not receive the kind of legal assistance he needed. The case was never reviewed on the merits by the Alabama Supreme Court or the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit—which is unprecedented for a death penalty case hours away from a scheduled execution.

Mr. Woods, family members, and lawyers are asking courts and the governor to delay the execution so that appropriate consideration can be given to the many outstanding questions surrounding his case.

There is a mindset that must be overcome that even if the death penalty is less reliable, fair, and just, it should be faster.

An Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee advanced a bill last week that is designed to speed up death penalty appeals by eliminating review of these cases. Under the bill, people on death row would get less review of the fairness of their convictions and death sentences than people convicted of shoplifting, drug possession, or other criminal offenses.

Legislators want to eliminate review of death cases by the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals despite the fact that the appellate court has overturned convictions or death sentences in over 100 death penalty cases after finding illegal or unconstitutional conduct by prosecutors or judges.

Hundreds of thousands of people are expressing their concern about the fairness of Alabama’s justice system today.  It is important that our elected officials listen.

Update: Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey denied Mr. Woods’s clemency application this evening. The State of Alabama executed Mr. Woods at 9 pm tonight.