The Alabama Supreme Court has approved changes to state procedures related to the death penalty that allow the governor to set a timeframe for the execution of people on death row, according to a court order released after Thursday’s decision.
Other changes to the appeals process for persons on death row have been ordered by the court, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, which stated that longstanding appellate court requirements “consider any constitutional violations that occurred during a convicted person’s trial.” were struck down by the court, reducing the constitutional rights of those on death row.
Executions in Alabama were previously carried out by the Alabama Department of Corrections in a single 24-hour window established by the Alabama Supreme Court, with this latest order nullifying that previous requirement. Under the amended procedures, the court will issue an order to the ADOC commissioner authorizing him to carry out an execution within a timeframe set by the governor.
The order comes after Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey wrote a letter to the Alabama Supreme Court in December asking the court to change the allowable length of time for executions on death row.
In early November, Ivey announced the withdrawal of two pending motions to set execution dates for Alan Eugene Miller and James Edward Barber, while directing Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall to wait until the completion of a “top to-bottom review” of execution proceedings in the Country.
This effective governor’s moratorium was apparently ignored by Marshall, who said during a press conference following Ivey’s announcement that “there is not, and will not be, a moratorium on the death penalty in Alabama.”
In a statement released Friday by the Alabama ACLU, the organization noted dissenting opinions from Associate Justices Greg Shaw and Kelli Wise, who question the review of the revocation for simple errors under rule 45A of the Alabama Rules of Appeals.
“Changing the Alabama Supreme Court’s rules of appeal is unnecessary, dangerous and will result in the execution of those wrongly convicted,” said Alison Mollman, senior legal counsel for the ACLU of Alabama.
Rule 45A requires that in all death penalty cases, the Court of Appeal “finds any apparent error or deficiency in the procedure reviewed, or deficiency in the procedure reviewed,” whether raised during the trial.
“A majority of those on death row were not adequately represented in court and had attorneys who failed to challenge egregious violations of the constitution,” Mollman said. “The Alabama Supreme Court rule change removes the ability for those on death row to have constitutional violations fixed at their trials through direct appeals. A rule change of this magnitude should have been considered by the Rules Committee and should not have overridden objections by several judges.”
According to ADOC statistics, there are currently 166 inmates on death row in the state of Alabama.