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Alabama Wrongly Revoked Override On Death Penalty

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After being ranked the tenth most dangerous state in America, it makes no sense that Alabama weaken its judicial system.

The website 24/7 Wall St. reported in November 2016 that for every 100,000 people in Alabama, 472 violent crimes were reported the previous year, making it the tenth most dangerous state in the nation, just behind Missouri, which was at 497 per 100,000. Less than half a year later, the state's new governor signed a bill changing the legal process in the state, making the death penalty more difficult to instate.

On April 11, days after Alabama's elected governor stepped down from office, his successor, Kay Ivey, signed a law that ended the longtime practice in Alabama's judicial system which allowed judges to override a jury's recommendation of a life or death sentence -- and even impose the opposite, the Los Angeles Times reported.

This new bill completely denies the purpose of such a practice, and discounts the election and appointment process for Alabama judges. explains that this practice of judicial override is intended to prevent runaway juries and ensure the use of the death penalty be justified. Judges are much more immune to court hearings and better equipped to convict and charge criminals on an fair basis, while jurors can decide to ignore the judge's recommended charges and begin to investigate on their own account and charge unfairly (this is a runaway jury).

When Ivey signed this bill into law, such potential situations were not addressed, nor were options for prevention laid out.

In addition to the denial of purpose for the practice, this bill does not address how it undermines the voters who elected these judges and the officials who appointed these judges.

The Alabama state website is very clear: "All justices and judges, with the exception of municipal court judges, are elected by the qualified voters of a respective court's jurisdiction for six-year terms."

Alternatively, a municipality's governing body appoints municipal court judges.

This new ban on judicial override dismisses voters' decisions. It completely disregards the fact that the people of Alabama voted for these officials. Voters probably hoped that these strong and tough-on-crime officials would use their abilities to make Alabama a better state, as opposed to the tenth most dangerous state in the U.S.

Rather than completely abolishing this practice, it would better serve officials to reform the practice. Writers for the bill should instead focus on what the voters want and take input from them on how to ensure the practice be used justly and properly.

Click here for the opposing view on this topic.

Sources:, Los Angeles Times, Alabama Appellate Courts, 24/7 Wall St. / Photo credit: Pixabay

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