The state of Alabama executed death row inmate Nathaniel Woods last night for allegedly murdering three Birmingham police officers in 2004. Pronounced dead at 9:01pm local time, Woods gave no final statement, according to the state corrections department. He was 44 years old at the time of his execution by lethal injection.
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey refused Woods’ clemency application despite the controversial nature of the case, and the United States Supreme Court ordered a temporary halt to the execution only minutes before it was scheduled to be carried out only to deny the last-minute stay.
Although Woods was convicted in 2005 of capital murder, there was doubt at the time surrounding a number of aspects of his case, including his culpability and his representation. His co-defendant, Kerry Spencer, said that Woods was innocent. Spencer also noted that Woods ran when gunfire broke out, and he claimed full responsibility for fatally shooting the three officers. Also on death row in Alabama, Spencer said, “Nate is absolutely innocent.”
Martin Luther King III also urged Governor Ivey to stop the execution. In a letter to the governor, he wrote, “Killing this African American man, whose case appears to have been strongly mishandled by the courts, could produce an irreversible injustice.”
Woods’ attorneys have pointed to previous mishandling of Woods’ case. They said that due to his socioeconomic status his representation was a court-appointed lawyer who had never handled a capital case and who ultimately inadequately investigated the case. Additionally, there is no record of Woods ever being offered a plea deal. Former District Attorney David Barber, who prosecuted Woods, has submitted an affidavit saying he has no knowledge of any proffered deal.
The surviving police officer, Michael Collins, has stated that he knew it was not Woods who shot at him. However, in the state of Alabama, even if a person did not pull the trigger, accomplices are still eligible for the death penalty.
Sources: CNN, 3/6/20; NBC, 3/5/20; The Hill, 3/5/20.