Ainsworth unveils legislation to speed up legal process for death row inmates — ‘Justice should be swift not stagnant’
MONTGOMERY — Alabama Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth held a press conference on Tuesday where he detailed his legislation that would speed up the appeals process for death row inmates. He was joined at the briefing by State Rep. Connie Rowe (R-Jasper) and State Sen. Cam Ward (R-Alabaster), who will sponsor the bill in the House and Senate respectively.
Currently, those convicted of a capital offense have two different attempts to appeal at the statewide level in Alabama; one to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals and one to the Alabama Supreme Court.
The main change that would occur if the legislation were enacted is that a person convicted of capital murder in Alabama would only be able to make one appeal at the statewide level, and it would be heard by the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals.
Ainsworth was initially drawn to the effort after the death of seven Alabama law enforcement officers last year.
“Losing even one law enforcement officer to violence is unacceptable, losing seven in just one year just blows my mind,” he remarked at the event.
After a thorough review of the current system, Ainsworth said that the effort morphed into a change that would affect “all capital offenses.”
“This legislation still affords a thorough appeals process,” Ainsworth assured those in attendance.
A release from his office compared the effort to a similar process recently implemented in the State of Tennessee.
The bills would also direct the Court of Criminal Appeals to prioritize and expedite the hearings of those convicted of capital crimes, and it would start the clock sooner on an appeal to the United States Supreme Court.
“The crime rate is down in every single category except one, murder,” warned Ward when he took the podium. “We have had an increase in murder in Alabama by 25% over the last three years, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.”
The state senator, who is seeking a place on the Alabama Supreme Court, argued that when it comes to law enforcement officers getting killed, Alabamians should not “continue to allow political correctness stop us from stopping this problem.”
Ward also signaled that the bill would be heard next week by the Senate Judiciary Committee which he chairs.
Rowe began her remarks talking about her 27-year career in law enforcement that ended with her as police chief for the City of Jasper.
Rowe then detailed the case of a woman slain in 1988 in Rowe’s native Walker County. The man convicted of killing that woman is currently still on death row.
“This shaves two years off of that process, it does not prevent the offender, the person who killed her, from any level of justice or appeals that they deserve, but it does speed this process along,” added Rowe.
“Her only sister lives to see if the death penalty is played out,” she said in her conclusion.
Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.