For the third time in five weeks, the United States Supreme Court on Monday ordered the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals to re-examine the state’s capital sentencing statute in light of Hurst v. Florida.
The Supreme Court’s January 12 decision in Hurst struck down Florida’s capital sentencing statute because it failed to ensure that the jury, not a judge, found each fact necessary to impose a sentence of death.
Alabama’s death penalty system has the same defect that was declared unconstitutional in Hurst.
On May 2, the Court sent back the case of Bart Johnson, whom the judge sentenced to death based on finding two aggravating factors that were not clearly found by the jury.
Last week, the Court remanded the case of Corey Wimbley, who was sentenced to death by a judge after a jury failed to unanimously vote for death. Monday’s order came in the case of EJI client Ronnie Kirksey.
These orders make very clear that the Supreme Court recognizes that Alabama’s death penalty scheme is called into question after Hurst. State courts must now confront the serious flaws that have long plagued Alabama’s capital sentencing process.