High Court Won’t Take Up Alabama Death Penalty

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The Supreme Court refused to consider challenges to Alabama’s death penalty system, the only one in the U.S. that lets judges overrule juries and impose death sentences, USA Today reports. The court’s action came a year after it ruled 8-1 against a similar capital punishment protocol in Florida. Since that decision, state supreme courts there and in Delaware have struck down such systems. Many opponents of the Alabama system had expected the justices to take up a challenge.

The Alabama-based Equal Justice Initiative, one of the groups challenging the state’s death penalty system, says judges overrode jury verdicts 107 times in the four decades since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty. In nearly all those cases, judges imposed death sentences. Some 21 percent of 199 people on the state’s death row were sentenced through such judicial overrides. The state executed two prisoners last year. It ranks seventh in total executions since 1976, behind Texas, Oklahoma, Virginia, Florida, Missouri, and Georgia. The skirmish over Alabama is part of the continuing Supreme Court battle over capital punishment, which voters in California, Nebraska, and Oklahoma decided to retain in November.

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