Given the severity of the death penalty, Alabama along with other states have historically provided defendants an extended appeals process to ensure due process. This gives attorneys time to review the facts of the case and raise any procedural issues that may have impacted the results. Not only does the appeals process give defendants the opportunity to raise potential errors in handling their case, it has also prevented wrongful executions. Now, Alabama legislators are considering reducing the amount of time to appeal to expedite executions and shorten the appeals process. This could severely impact the rights of inmates and limit opportunities for defense attorneys to effectively represent clients in the appeals process.
A lawyer’s role is critical from the moment of interrogation, through arrest, trial, and even after a conviction. Our Birmingham criminal defense attorneys have extensive experience navigating the Alabama criminal justice system and know the serious consequences faced by our clients. In addition to providing strategic and effective defense to our clients, we also stay abreast of developments in state and federal criminal law.
The new bill will both shorten and allow for the death penalty after the conviction of some crimes. If the bill passes, the death penalty laws in Alabama will cover additional crimes including murder on a school campus or killing a victim at a child care center. Presumably, including these crimes are an attempt to increase penalties after the wave of school and gun violence that has swept the nation. The new law would also give death penalty as a punishment for individuals who have killed a member of the law enforcement agency or a judge for purposes of intimidation or retaliation.
A number of legislators are challenging criminal defense attorneys who believe that shortening the appeals process could result in rushed executions. Without an appropriate period of time for appeals, attorneys will not be able to appropriately go through evidence and build a cases. The new bill would require two rounds of appeals in death penalty cases to be held simultaneously, rather than consecutively as they are now. Under the current system, a defendant who has been convicted of capital murder and sentenced to the death penalty has an opportunity to appeal his or her case through state or federal courts. After the case has gone through this first round of appeals, the defendant can then go through a second round to appeal other issues, including whether adequate legal representation was provided at trial. Under the new legislation, both of these appeals would happen at the same time.
Under the current system, an average Alabama death penalty case will take approximately 16 years from the moment of conviction through the moment of executions. Advocates claim that the bill will shorten the amount of time for appeals after conviction. Opponents of the bill believe that passing the bill could result in hasty and even wrongful executions. Alabama attorneys are asking the state to vote down the bill that would streamline the process for death penalty cases.