Senate advances bill to trim death penalty appeals

Senate advances bill to trim death penalty appeals

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday approved a bill that would shorten appeals in death penalty cases.

The committee advanced the bill, sponsored by Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, on a 4-3 vote. It now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

The legislation would remove the step of having appeals considered by the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals and instead send them straight to the state supreme court. Ward said before the vote that he believed condemned inmates still had plenty of avenues to appeal their cases, including the federal courts.

Christine Freeman, executive director of the Federal Defenders for the Middle District of Alabama, told the committee of nine exonerations of inmates who were on death row in recent years. She noted that it took those inmates anywhere from three-and-a-half to 28 years to clear their names.

“Decisions in capital cases have consequences we can’t take back. It’s this difference that makes the appellate process so critical to capital defendants,” Freeman said, according to the Montgomery Advertiser.