Alabama legislature rejects bill allowing for resentencing of death row inmates News
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Alabama legislature rejects bill allowing for resentencing of death row inmates

The Alabama House of Representatives rejected a bill on Wednesday that would allow the resentencing of death row inmates who were sentenced by a trial judge. The bill was defeated in Alabama’s House Judicial Committee by a 9-4 vote.

In 2016, the US Supreme Court issued an opinion on Hursts v. Florida finding, “The Sixth Amendment requires a jury, not a judge, to find each fact necessary to impose a sentence of death.” In 2017, Alabama passed AL SB16, which forbade judges from overriding a jury sentencing verdict in capital cases. However, neither the court decision nor the bill required the opportunity for death row inmates to be resentenced if they were sentenced by judicial override before the decision or the bill.

Because of this shortcoming, Representative Chris England introduced AL HB27 to the House on December 1, 2023. The bill aimed to allow the retroactive effect of SB16 for death row inmates sentenced before June 1, 2024. According to England, HB27 would apply to 33 death row inmates.

England expressed during the House Judicial Committee’s debate over HB27 that the Alabama legislature, as a whole with bipartisan support, decided as a matter of policy that judicial override for the death penalty is unjust. He stated that the bill only secures what Alabama already established as justice for the death row inmates who were sentenced before HB27. The Committee’s Chairman Jim Hill expressed disagreement, stating:

I understand that an individual tried today would be … subject to a different set of laws … But the individuals subject prior to the time … we changed the law were subject to those laws that were in effect at that time, and the law that was in effect at the time allowed judicial override, and these judges in their discretion overrode. Consequently, it is very difficult for me to second-guess or … override what the judge overrode.

The bill was ultimately defeated in a vote before the House Judicial Committee.