No capital sentencing procedure in the United States has come under more criticism than Alabama's practice of permitting elected trial judges to override jury verdicts of life and impose death sentences.
Of the 34 states with the death penalty, Alabama is the one state where judges routinely override jury verdicts of life to impose capital punishment.
In the last thirty years, Alabama judges have overridden jury verdicts 107 times, or 92% of the time.
Judge override is the primary reason Alabama has the highest per capita death sentencing rate and execution rate in the country.
In 2010, with a state population of 4.5 million people, Alabama imposed more new death sentences than Texas, with a population of 24 million.
This doesn't seem to be a racial issue as Alabama. Judges override jury life verdicts in cases involving white victims much more frequently than in cases involving blacks.
So, what happened to "by the people and for the people?"
Is it right for judges to disregard the wishes of juries and override their sentence? Alabama is the only state where this is happening routinely; it's only legal in two others.
We think it is time to take death out of the hands of judges and let the people decide.