Death Penalty: Yes
The Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, scene of Civil Rights Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965.
Photo by Esther Brown.
Alabama's first execution was carried out in 1812. From 1812 to 1927, the primary method of execution was hanging. In 1927, the electric chair, known as "Yellow Mama," was introduced. Today, the primary method is lethal injection, although inmates convicted prior to 2002 can choose to be executed by electrocution or lethal injection.
1812 – First known execution in Alabama, Eli Norman hung for murder.
1927 – Alabama replaces hanging with electrocution as its method of execution.
1972 – The Supreme Court strikes down the death penalty in Furman v. Georgia.
1976 – Alabama passes a law reinstating capital punishment. The Supreme Court soon after reinstates the death penalty when it upholds Georgia’s statute in Gregg v. Georgia.
1983 – John Evans III is the first person executed in Alabama after Gregg.
2002 – Alabama electrocutes Lynda Lyon Block, the last person to undergo that punishment involuntarily in the state. Alabama subsequently made lethal injection its default execution method, but continued to allow inmates to select electrocution.
In 1931, nine black boys were charged with raping two white girls. They were tried in Scottsboro, Alabama, and became known as the Scottsboro Boys. All-white juries sentenced eight of the boys to death. The cases were heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in Powell v. Alabama (1932), the landmark case which guarantees the right to counsel in a capital trial. After numerous retrials, only one of the boys was sentenced to death, but his sentence was later commuted to life in prison.
Cornelius Singleton, an inmate with an IQ of 55, was executed November 20, 1992.
Darrell B. Grayson, an African-American man, was convicted by an all-white jury for the murder of a white woman. The Innocence Project sought DNA testing in Grayson's case, saying that testing not available at the time of his trial might prove him innocent. Requests for new testing were denied, and Grayson was executed on July 26, 2007.
Holly Wood was executed September 9, 2010 despite evidence that he was intellectually disabled, and therefore exempt from execution. His lawyer did not present evidence of Wood's low IQ during Wood's original trial. A federal District Court overturned Wood's sentence, but the U.S. Supreme Court agreed with the ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit that Wood failed to show that the lawyers were constitutionally ineffective.
Walter McMillian was sentenced to death in 1988 despite the jury's recommendation for a life sentence. An investigation by 60 Minutes uncovered prosecutorial misconduct and perjury by witnessess. McMillan was released from prison in 1993.
Anthony Ray Hinton was sentenced to death by the court in 1985 murders of two fast-food restaurant managers, after a 10-2 recommendation of death by the jury. The conviction was based in large part upon scientifically invalid testimony of a state forensic examiner that the bullets in the two murders came from a gun that was found in Hinton's house. The U.S. Supreme Court later held that Hinton's lawyer, who was unaware of the law and, mistakenly believing funds to hire a qualified firearms expert were unavailable, hired an expert whom he knew to be unqualified. The prosecutor (who was white) had a documented history of racial bias, and claimed he could tell Hinton (who is black) was guilty and "evil" just by looking at him. Hinton was arrested after a victim in a similar crime erroneously identified him in a photo array, even though Hinton could not have committed that crime because he had been working in a locked warehouse 15 miles away when the crime occurred. In 2002, three leading firearms examiners testified that the bullets used in the murders could not be matched to Hinton's gun, and may not have come from the a single gun at all. Hinton spent 30 years on death row before being exonerated in 2015.
Milestones in Abolition/Reinstatement
Senator Hank Sanders has introduced a moratorium bill for the past 10 years. Representative Merika Coleman has introduced a moratorium bill for the past 5 years.
Other Interesting Facts
Alabama is one of only three states that allow judges to override jury sentencing recommendations, and the only state that allows a judge without restriction to override when the jury votes for a life sentence.
From 1927-1976 there were 153 executions. Of those 126 were African American, 27 were Caucasian. 3 were female.
Alabama is the only state whose anti-death penalty organization (Project Hope to Abolish the Death Penalty) was founded by death row inmates in 1989. The Chairman and Board are at Holman on death row.
Alabama Dept. of Corrections list of inmates currently on death row
Many thanks to Project Hope to Abolish the Death Penalty for their contributions to this page.