The Results Are In: On the Death Penalty, Alabama is the Worst of the (Just About) Worst

The Results Are In: On the Death Penalty, Alabama is the Worst of the (Just About) Worst

Date: 20 Aug 2013 | posted in: Public Good News, The Public Good | 0 Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmail

For several decades the United States stood alone among industrialized country in still allowing criminals to be put to death.   In the last 20 years, as more and more nations have abandoned the death penalty as barbaric—140 at last count—the United States finds itself on a rapidly shrinking list that includes China, Iran, Yemen and Saudi Arabia.

Within the United States, the South has embraced the death penalty most aggressively.  And within the South, according to the Equal Justice Initiative, Alabama stands out with a death-sentencing rate nearly four times greater than Texas and over six-and-a-half times greater than Louisiana and Georgia.

Alabama is the only state in the country that permits judges, without limitation, to override a jury verdict of life without parole and impose a death sentence. Which means that an elected judge who almost always campaigns on his or her vigorous support for the death penalty and promises to facilitate and expedite executions in order to win votes, can overrule juries that often sift through evidence and listen to cross-examinations of witnesses for weeks.

The results are predictable. Since 1976, Alabama judges have rejected sentencing recommendations from capital juries 110 times. In 100 of those cases, or 91 percent, judges imposed the death penalty after juries had recommended a life sentence.

And then there is the issue of race. None of Alabama’s 19 appellate court judges is black; only one of its 42 elected district attorneys is black. In a state with a population 27 percent black, 83 percent of the 763 people executed by Alabama since capital punishment began in this state have been black.

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David Morris is co-founder of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and directs its initiative on The Public Good. He is the author of the New City States, Seeing the Light, and three other non-fiction books. His essays on public policy are regularly published by On the Commons, Alternet, Common Dreams and the Huffington Post. Connect David on twitter or email dmorris(at) Sign-up for our monthly Public Good Newsletter

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