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Supreme Court lets Alabama death penalty system stand

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] on Monday refused [order list, PDF] to consider a challenge to Alabama's death penalty system. Alabama is the only state that allows judges to overrule juries and impose death sentences [USA Today report]. This comes a year after the justices struck down [JURIST report] a similar practice in Florida. A study by an Alabama-based Equal Justice Initiative found that roughly 21 percent of the 199 people on Alabama's death row were sentenced through judicial overrides. In November the court issued an order granting a stay of execution [JURIST report] for an Alabama inmate over concerns of the judicial override. Chief Justice Roberts provided the deciding vote, stating that he granted the stay as a courtesy until the issue could be discussed among the court.

Capital punishment [JURIST op-ed] remains a controversial issue in the US and worldwide. In November the legal status of the death penalty was upheld [JURIST report] by state referendum in Oklahoma, Nebraska and California. In September executions in Oklahoma were put on a two-year hiatus so Oklahoma can reevaluate its lethal injection procedures [JURIST report] following a botched execution and several drug mix-ups in the past two years. In May the US Supreme Court upheld a stay [JURIST report] of execution for Alabama inmate Vernon Madison. A few days before that a Miami judge ruled [JURIST report] that Florida's revamped death penalty law is unconstitutional because it does not require a unanimous agreement among jurors to approve executions. In April Virginia's General Assembly voted [JURIST report] to keep secret the identities of suppliers of lethal injection drugs.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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