A 21-year-old Birmingham man became Alabama’s 202nd and youngest inmate on Death Row after a judge recently sentenced him to death by lethal injection for the 2009 murder of an out-of-town businessman, nwi.com reports.
Murder in Birmingham is the most serious crime in our criminal justice system. In Alabama, it can result in the death penalty in extreme cases, but still could mean years or decades in prison. Hiring a veteran Birmingham Defense Attorney could be the most important decision someone charged with this difficult crime can make.
The defendant was charged with the May 22, 2009 shooting death of a steel consultant who was in town on business and was washing his car before picking his wife up at the Birmingham airport. According to news reports, the man was at a coin-operated car wash when the teen walked up to him, shot him three times and stole his car and wallet. He was arrested minutes later after he tried to set Wright’s vehicle on fire.
The man’s attorneys argued that his 70 IQ qualifies him as mentally retarded and that he should not be executed. He was 19 at the time of the crime. A jury recommended in April he be executed for the crime and a judge this week took their advisory sentence into consideration and sentenced him to death by lethal injection.
What many people don’t realize is that the brain of a teenage male is not completely formed, and therefore lacks many aspects of an adult brain, such as areas that allow for reasoning and consequence. And with a teen who is mentally retarded cannot be executed, according to the 2002 U.S. Supreme Court ruling of Atkins v. Virginia.
According to deathpenaltyinfo.org, 31 states ban putting juveniles to death, while 12 states have no death penalty. Thirty eight states have no juveniles currently on Death Row and 43 states haven’t executed a juvenile since 1976.
But states vary in how they define a juvenile in terms of the death penalty, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. The minimum age for execution in Alabama is 16, which is the age in 17 other states. In five states, including Florida, Georgia and Texas, the minimum age is 17, while in 15 states, the minimum age is 18. Twelve states don’t have the death penalty.
Murder cases especially require a dedicated defense team because not only is the charge based on the most serious crime on the books, but also because a person facing capital murder may be executed as a result of a conviction.
Juveniles, especially, require an aggressive defense because charges they may get arrested for early in their lives could stay with them forever. While murder is obviously an extreme example, drug charges, theft charges and even traffic-related charges must be fought so that they are able to move on with their lives and qualify for scholarships and get into college. These charges don’t just magically disappear from a person’s record just because they are a juvenile, which is why fighting to get them dropped or beating them at trial is crucial.