Capital Murder: What It Means If You Are Indicted in Alabama

It’s been a busy 2023 for major crimes in Tuscaloosa County: There were five homicides between Jan. 1 and Jan. 15. Two of these led to capital murder charges.

On January 8, 19-year-old cousins ​​Mance McCall Jr. and Keondre McCall were charged with the capital murder of two 23-year-olds, Justin Whitfield and Destin Holley. Whitfield and Holley were found dead in Fosters, shot and dumped on the side of two separate streets.

On Jan. 15, Michael Davis, 20, and former University of Alabama basketball player Darius Miles, 21, were charged with murder in the shooting death of 23-year-old mother Jamea Harris.

Manslaughter is among the most serious charges, said Tuscaloosa District Attorney Hays Webb, but nothing can ever be done to bring these victims back.

“Every single one of these defendants, every single one of these people who are choosing to shoot at our community have parents at home,” Webb said. “How on earth don’t we expect parents to be parents? Why on earth are kids out with guns in the middle of the night because they are being molested or upset?”

So what are the requirements for a charge of murder, say, murder or manslaughter?

“It requires intent for someone to die, and then some kind of simultaneous state has to happen,” Webb said. “Let’s say first degree robbery, first degree kidnapping, first degree burglary. It could also be that two or more people are killed. What we often see here is that there is another condition, which is that the killing, it must be a premeditated killing, be done by shooting in or out of a vehicle.”

What happens after you’re arrested and charged? You get a hearing.

If you’re charged with capital murder in Alabama, with few exceptions, you can’t expect jail bail until the case is settled.

“These hearings are designed to provide the judge with enough information to say what an appropriate bond is for that individual,” Webb said.

After the bond hearing comes a preliminary hearing. This usually happens three to four weeks after an arrest.

“It’s a probable cause hearing where the judge, after hearing the evidence, makes a decision and then says either the case must be dismissed or it must be referred to the grand jury,” Webb said.

When that is over, the court case is far from over.

“Then we will file charges,” Webb said. “And that’s one of those things where defendants don’t even have to be present once they’ve filled out certain paperwork. On capital defendants they will be there and either the judge or (the prosecution) will read the defendant the charges they are facing and what their bond is. Then the circuit court process really begins, in which these cases are resolved.”

Cases are usually settled through plea agreements. If no agreement can be reached, the accused will be brought before a jury.

In Alabama, those convicted of capital murder face life imprisonment with no possibility of parole or the death penalty.