Dem State Rep. John Rogers calls for automatic death penalty with no appeals for convicted cop killers
MONTGOMERY — The Alabama House of Representatives on Thursday passed a bill that would add law enforcement officers as a protected class in the state hate crime statute.
Race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity and physical or mental disability are examples of current protected classes under Alabama law.
State Rep. Rex Reynolds’ (R-Hazel Green) HB 59 would provide that when a person is found guilty of committing a misdemeanor or felony against a law enforcement officer and it is shown beyond a reasonable doubt that the commission of the crime was motivated by the victim’s employment as a law enforcement officer, the person is subject to heightened criminal penalties.
The legislation comes amid what is widely viewed as a climate of increasing hostility and violence against law enforcement officers across the country and in Alabama, where seven officers have been murdered in the line of duty since the start of 2019. Attorney General Steve Marshall on Wednesday held a powerful press conference about this epidemic. Reynolds is a former longtime police officer, as are several other members of the body.
Debate on the bill was lengthy and spirited on the House floor on Thursday, although the final vote was bipartisan, with no members voting “nay.” State Rep. John Rogers (D-Birmingham) gave some of the most striking remarks, as he often does when he gets up to the microphone.
Adding law enforcement officers to the hate crime statute is a policy Rogers has supported since at least 2016. Nearly identical legislation was introduced last session by State Sen. Chris Elliot (R-Daphne) and State Rep. Chris Sells (R-Greenville). The legislation passed the House but got stuck in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Elliot is sponsoring the Senate version of the legislation this session as well.
Speaking about HB 59, Rogers said, “I support the bill, but it’s still not strong enough.”
The state representative from Jefferson County advised his “adopted daughter” was a law enforcement officer slain in the line of duty by an individual who shot her with specific intent to kill.
Speaking about individuals convicted of capital murder in the killing of law enforcement officers, Rogers remarked that in those cases, “The death penalty ought to be automatic.”
“I want to see them burn,” he noted.
Rogers lamented how long those individuals on death row can stave off their executions through appeal after appeal after appeal. He argued that individuals should not be allowed to appeal after being duly tried and convicted of the capital murder of a law enforcement officer.
“I’ve been through the whole process, I know what I’m talking about,” Rogers added.
“Sometimes it may be 25-30 years before they burn,” he decried. “And the State’s paying for it.”
“I’m for the hate crime [bill], but we still got to find a way to expedite [the death penalty process],” Rogers said. “I want to get it over with … you ought to be able to find a way to electrocute them as quick as possible, or whatever it is, instead of them just hanging around forever.”
Rogers also blamed the NRA for “the proliferation of guns.” He said guns are being stolen from houses and cars, as well as obtained at gun shows, and then used to commit crimes, including murder law enforcement officers. Rogers called for getting stolen guns off the streets and said “you’re asking for” law enforcement officers to be killed under open-carry policies.
The murder of law enforcement officers is already a capital crime and an aggravating capital sentencing factor under Alabama law. Capital crimes in Alabama are eligible for life imprisonment without parole or the death penalty. HB 59 would deal with crimes such as assault on a police officer.
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn