The US Supreme Court Wednesday denied an Alabama man’s petition for a stay of execution. In 1996, a jury voted 11 to 1 to sentence Kenneth E. Smith life in prison without the possibility of parole. A judge overrode the jury’s life in prison sentence and sentenced Smith to death, citing aggravating circumstances.
Smith noted that, in 2017, Alabama enacted a law banning trial judges from overriding sentencing decisions by a jury in capital cases. Thus, Smith argued if that law were in place in 1996, he would not face the death penalty today. Smith’s brief also asserted that other states abolished judicial override and raised Eighth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment due process concerns.
The state of Alabama filed a brief in opposition, arguing that the Supreme Court lacks jurisdiction to hear Smith’s post conviction constitutional challenge because, among other reasons, “it must be filed within one year of the sentence being made final, not decades later.” Alabama also accused Smith of “gamesmanship” because he did not bring this claim in the state courts first. Smith is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection in Alabama today.