Alabama inmate, Nathaniel Woods, was put to death three hours after his scheduled execution. This execution was initially delayed when the U.S. Supreme Court stepped in for a last-minute review of his case.
What We Know:
- The high court ultimately declined to intervene, leaving Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, to seal Woods’ fate. Ivey decided not to impede the execution.
- Woods, 43, was convicted for his role in the fatal shootings of three Birmingham police officers in 2004. Woods was pronounced dead at 9:01 p.m. by lethal injection, advised the Alabama Department of Corrections. According to the Associated Press, he had no words but his hand signs were suggestive of his Islamic faith.
- In the days leading to his execution, Woods’ family collected signatures hoping to sway Ivey to grant clemency. This renewed questions surrounding his trial and led to accusations that his case was mishandled and scrutiny over how Alabama’s criminal laws treat black defendants raised concerns.
- Woods’ co-defendant, Kerry Spencer, confessed to being behind the trigger and denies Woods being complicit. He implored for his execution to be stopped.
- “Nathaniel Woods is 100% innocent,” Spencer, who remains on death row, wrote in an open letter. “I know that to be a fact because I’m the person that shot and killed all three of the officers that Nathaniel was subsequently charged and convicted of murdering. Nathaniel Woods doesn’t even deserve to be incarcerated, much less executed.”
- In a statement Thursday evening, Ivey said she would not step in. “This is not a decision that I take lightly, but I firmly believe in the rule of law and that justice must be served,” she said.
- During the 2005 trial, prosecutors stated that he and his roommate Spencer were involved in selling crack cocaine from their Birmingham home.
- Officers were sent to the home to serve a misdemeanor warrant, but prosecutors said Woods set up an ambush that allowed Spencer to shoot at them multiple times. Three officers — Carlos Owen, Harley Chisholm III and Charles Bennett — were killed, while a fourth officer at the scene was shot but survived.
- Spencer confessed to shooting the officers, but he said it was self-defense for the officers assaulting Woods. Two of the officers killed were accused of being involved in a scheme that protected drug dealers in exchange for money.
- Surviving officer, Michale Collins, said at the time he believed that Woods helped to set up the shooting, but did not actually fire a weapon. According to him, Woods yelled, “I give up. I give up. Just don’t spray me with that mace,” before the shooting initiated. Collins added, “I knew it wasn’t Nathaniel,” who fired at him.
- Woods was tagged as an accomplice, which in Alabama means that even if a person didn’t pull the trigger, they are still eligible for the death penalty.
Alabama is currently the only state in the nation in which a jury does not have to be unanimous to impose the death penalty and can still enact it with at least 10 jurors in favor.