A Birmingham man will get a second shot at trial, after his 2010 Jefferson County conviction for capital murder was recently overturned by the Alabama Court of Appeals.
Our Birmingham murder defense attorneys know that this is a rare opportunity for a defendant in such a case. Most don’t get this kind of second chance.
That is why it is critical for anyone facing criminal charges for a loss of human life – regardless of the circumstances – to invest in the services of an experienced legal defense team. Your goal should be to avoid a conviction altogether the first time.
Here’s the history on this case:
Back in 2008, the 38-year-old defendant and his 40-year-old estranged girlfriend, the mother of his child and mother to two older girls, had been at odds since she began dating another man.
One night, shortly after 2 a.m., prosecutors contend the defendant reportedly entered the victim’s home, kicked in the bedroom door and shot her four times in the head as she slept. He then returned to his parent’s home. One of the woman’s older daughters called 911. The woman was pronounced dead at the scene. The defendant called 911 a short time later to indicate he wanted to surrender.
He was then arrested without incident and charged with capital murder.
Per Alabama Code 13A-5-40, there are a total of 18 possible capital offenses, meaning 18 charges that could result in the death penalty for the defendant. The only other option for punishment in these situations is life in prison. One of those is murder by a defendant during a burglary in the first or second-degree, which would apply in this case.
The jury had convicted this defendant of the charge, and then subsequently chose to sentence him to life in prison by a vote of 10-2. However, the judge overruled this and instead sentenced the defendant to death, after considering the following aggravating circumstances:
The victim was reportedly asleep in bed, with no possible means to flee or defend herself;
The large size of the handgun;
The victim had previously been threatened by the defendant.
But now, the appellate court has overruled that verdict, finding that the court failed to accurately inform the jury on the issue of “provoked heat of passion” as it would have pertained to this capital case.
In a statement that the defendant gave to police shortly after the homicide, he indicated that he had kicked open her apartment door, followed her into her bedroom and then shot her. He said that she was not sleeping, but rather was in the midst of an argument with him at the time of the killing. She reportedly slammed the door in his face, caused him to suffer a blow to the head.
He also told investigators that he believed she was holding a knife and was about to stab him when he shot her.
The appellate court, while not necessarily agreeing with his version of events, found that the lower court had erred in failing to include any comment at all on the state’s burden to prove whether the defendant was acting unprovoked and not in the heat of passion. The latter would have applied to a lesser charge of provocation manslaughter, which would not have necessarily warranted a life sentence, let alone the death penalty.
The appellate court found that the defendant’s earlier statement was significant enough to at least raise the issue.
The Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office has said it will wait for direction from the state attorney general before determining how it will proceed. Capital litigation appeals go before the attorney general’s capital litigation division.