Alabama is the only state where judges have routinely overridden jury verdicts of life to impose capital punishment.
Since 1976, Alabama judges have overridden jury verdicts 112 times. Judges have authority to override life or death verdicts, but 91% of overrides have overruled jury verdicts of life to impose the death penalty.
Judge override is a significant contributor to Alabama’s high death sentencing rate. Nearly 20% of the people currently on death row were sentenced to death through judicial override.
Florida and Delaware—the only other states that permitted judge override—ended it in 2016. Alabama became the last state to abolish judge override on April 11, 2017. State prosecutors have argued the new law does not effect earlier cases and are still seeking to execute people sentenced to death by elected judges who overrode jury life verdicts.
Equal Justice Initiative, “The Death Penalty in Alabama: Judge Override” (2011).