In a letter citing political manipulation of the death penalty by the state’s chief prosecutor, 41 members of Alabama’s District Attorneys Association called on Attorney General Troy King to apologize to Shelby County District Attorney Robby Owens (pictured). King has said that Owens “shirked” his duties when he expressed concerns in a court hearing about the fairness of an inmate’s death sentence. “If he cannot recognize the error of his needless attack on the district attorney, perhaps he should consider his fitness for the position he now holds,” the association said in a statement issued during a news conference in Montgomery. Russell County District Attorney Kenneth Davis, who heads the DA’s Association, said that Owens “has been unfairly and unnecessarily attacked by the attorney general” for doing what he was morally bound to do in seeking equal justice. Davis noted that by attacking Owens, “the attorney general has attacked all of us.”

The dispute with King stems from Owens’ testimony in the case of LaSamuel Gamble. Owens testified that it would be disproportionate to execute Gamble for killing two people more than a decade ago in light of the fact that his co-defendant, and the crime’s triggerman, Marcus Presley, had his death sentence reduced to life under the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that outlawed the death penalty for juvenile offenders. Earlier this month, Shelby County Circuit Judge J. Michael Joiner agreed and ordered a new sentencing hearing for Gamble. After the ruling, King announced he will appeal Judge Joiner’s ruling and is taking the case away from Owens.

The District Attorneys Association says that King’s decision was politically motivated, stating that King took over the case in retaliation for Owens not supporting his 2006 Attorney General election bid. King and Owens are both Republicans, but Owens endorsed Democrat John Tyson in the race. “I want him to be the attorney general and leave politics at home,” Owens said during the news conference. Tyson added, “I had hoped at some point (King) would grow up.”
(Associated Press, September 18, 2007). See Arbitrariness, Juveniles, and New Voices.