The execution of Nathaniel Woods, convicted for his role as an accomplice to the murder of three Alabama police officers, was called a “mockery of justice” by Martin Luther King III.
Woods was put to death Thursday, 14 years after his conviction, after the Supreme Court lifted an 11th-hour stay of execution, reports the Montgomery Advertiser.
His case attracted a wide number of supporters, including Kim Kardashian West and the son of Martin Luther King, Jr., who claimed Woods was innocent of the charge.
“The actions of the U.S. Supreme Court and the Governor of the State of Alabama are reprehensible, and have potentially contributed to an irreversible injustice,” King said in a statement after the execution, reports NBC News.
“It makes a mockery of justice and constitutional guarantees to a fair trial.”
The three Birmingham police officers — Charles Robert Bennett, Carlos “Curly” Owen and Harley Chisholm III — were killed on June 17, 2004 by Kerry Spencer with a semi-automatic rifle at a drug house. A fourth policeman survived the shooting.
Supporters and family members said Woods, 43, was not responsible for the deaths.
“We want justice for the officers,” said Woods’ sister Pamela, after visiting her brother Thursday.
“We want justice for my brother. It can’t be one-sided or for one group of people. You have to have justice for everyone.”
But family members of the officers who attended the execution said Woods was as guilty as the man who pulled the trigger. Chisholm’s sister, Rhonda Hembd, said, “Our families will not have closure until Kerry Spencer’s execution date.”
A police officer who survived the attack said the officers were serving a warrant. Spencer, who had been napping on the couch, began shooting, claiming that he saw a gun pointed at him.
Gov. Kay Ivey, who denied appeals for clemency, accused Woods of luring the police officers into the house. She noted that Alabama had executed two others since 1983 “for being an accomplice to capital murder.”
Though Woods acknowledged he and Spencer sold drugs, he is not accused of actually killing the officers and did not have a gun at the time of the shooting.
In a phone interview earlier from William C. Holman Correctional Facility in Escambia County, where he is on death row, Spencer told CNN that he alone fatally shot the three officers in 2004 when they stormed the crack house where he was sleeping.
Woods wasn’t involved, he said. In fact, Spencer said, Woods ran when the gunfire erupted.
“Nate is absolutely innocent,” said Spencer, who also is on Alabama’s death row.
“That man didn’t know I was going to shoot anybody just like I didn’t know I was going to shoot anybody that day, period.”
State Attorney General Steve Marshall rejected arguments that Woods was innocent or that he surrendered to police during the June 2004 drug raid.
“The falsehoods are the descriptors ‘surrendered’ and ‘innocent’: Neither apply whatsoever to Nathaniel Woods, whose actions directly caused the deaths of three policemen and injury to another,” Marshall said in a statement.
“The only injustice in the case of Nathaniel Woods is that which was inflicted on those four policemen that terrible day.”
The execution underlined the starkly different approaches to capital punishment taken by the states and the federal government, which is trying to revive capital punishment after a 16-year hiatus.
In its annual report in December, the Death Penalty Information Center, a nonprofit group advocating for abolition of capital punishment, noted that application of the death penalty was declining across the U.S.