On Thursday, Attorney General Luther Strange said the state has filed a petition with the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals to order a Jefferson County trial court to vacate an earlier ruling on the state’s death penalty. Last week, the court ruled that the state’s “capital sentencing scheme” is unconstitutional.
The petition filed Thursday notes that the lower court has “no power to prevent the state from seeking the death penalty in capital murder cases,” according to a news release from the Attorney General’s office.
Portions of the petition read as follows:
The trial court’s order ignores on-point precedent from the Supreme Court of the United States and the Supreme Court of Alabama. The trial court does not have the power to prevent the State of Alabama from seeking the death penalty when and if the defendant is convicted of capital murder. Although recent legal developments may call into question the imposition of the death penalty under certain circumstances, the trial court’s order is indefensible.
It eliminates the State’s ability to seek the death penalty for four offenders. And it does so as a facial matter before they have even been found guilty. To ensure that these and other prosecutions can move forward in an orderly and equitable manner, the Court should grant the petition for writ of mandamus and direct the trial court to vacate its order declaring Alabama’s ‘capital sentencing scheme’ to be facially unconstitutional.
The petition further notes that Alabama’s death penalty is constitutional under the Sixth Amendment and that the trial court has no other findings to support its assertion that the death penalty is unconstitutional.
“The trial court’s order is nothing less than a declaration that it will not follow Alabama law or the precedents of the Supreme Court of Alabama,” the petition reads in part. “The State has a clear legal right to seek the death penalty.”