Judicial Override Bill Passes Senate

Feb 24, 2017

Alabama death row unit, Holman Correctional Facility, Atmore, Ala.
Credit EJI

Alabama may be close to putting an end to the unusual practice of allowing judges to hand down death sentences in capital murder cases despite a jury recommendation for life in prison.

The state Senate approved a bill yesterday that would end the state's status as the only one in the U.S. that allows a judge to override a jury when sentencing capital murder cases.

Senators approved the bill 30-1. It now moves to the House of Representatives, where a similar bill has cleared committee but faces an uncertain future on the House floor.

Since 1976, Alabama judges have overridden jury recommendations 112 times, according to the Montgomery-based Equal Justice Initiative. In 101 of those cases, the judges gave a death sentence.

The legislation would only affect future death sentences, not inmates currently awaiting execution on Alabama's death row.