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Alabama lawmakers approve bill cutting appeals time for death penalty cases

The Alabama legislature has passed legislation to reduce the time death row inmates spend awaiting their sentence.

Senate Bill 187, which received final passage on Thursday, has been titled the “Fair Justice Act.” If enacted into law, it would streamline the appellate process, allowing direct appeals to take place simultaneously with post-conviction stages of a death row case.

The legislation was modeled after Texas’ capital punishment law, where the average amount of time before execution is just over ten years according to the state’s Department of Criminal Justice. Currently, in Alabama, the average wait time for a criminal on death row is fifteen years and rising.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall is a key supporter of the measure. He says that it preserves fairness for convicted inmates but prevents the process from stalling, which unfairly affects families of victims.

“Each year that these appeals drag on, the general public is further removed from and even desensitized to the horrendous crimes that led to the sentences of every individual on death row. But, for the families of victims, the pain is not numbed with the passing of years. The endless appeals process reopens their wounds again and again,” Marshall said in a statement after the House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 187.

“This legislation is about justice, and justice should be fair and swift,” he added.

A measure similar to the Fair Justice Act was introduced two years ago but failed to gain necessary traction in Montgomery until this year.

The bill now heads to Governor Kay Ivey’s desk for final signature before it becomes law.