Alabama Ends Judicial Override

Alabama will no longer give judges the final say in whether a defendant is sentenced to death; that responsibility will lie with the jury.

Alabama’s House of Representatives approved a bill today that ends the state’s practice of allowing judges to override a jury’s recommendation of life in prison and sentence a defendant to death.

The bill was approved by the Senate in February, and now goes to the governor, who has said he will sign it.

Alabama is the only state that allows a judge to override a jury’s recommendation in a death penalty case. reported that Rep. Chris England, who introduced the Senate bill in the House, explained that “Having judicial override almost undermines the constitutional right to trial by a jury of your peers.”

Still, the state requires only 10 jurors to vote for a death sentence instead of a unanimous verdict.

The Equal Justice Initiative says Alabama judges have overridden jury recommendations 112 times, and in 101 of those cases, they have sentenced a defendant to death.

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