Alabama Attorney General Troy King (pictured) recently stripped a capital murder case from veteran Shelby County District Attorney Robby Owens because Owens expressed concerns in a court hearing about the fairness of an inmate’s death sentence. Owens testified that it would be disproportionate to execute LaSamuel 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 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, noting, “It is the re-sentencing of Presley to a non-death sentence that makes Gamble’s sentence of death constitutionally unfair.” Though King voiced similar concerns about the disparities that sparing juveniles could cause in a brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, he now says he will appeal Judge Joiner’s ruling and is taking the case away from Owens.

King’s 2004 brief, backed by other states that supported keeping the death penalty for juvenile offenders, stated that a decision banning the practice would make sentencing Gamble to death for the murders a “bizarre result” since he didn’t kill anyone. King is now criticizing Owens for raising similar points during his testimony. King called Owens’ actions “incredible and outrageous” and stated that the District Attorney “acted on the side of the criminal” when he delivered his testimony last year. Though Owens and King are both Republicans, Owens was among 27 Alabama District Attorneys who did not back King’s 2006 election bid. King insists that Owens’ choice to endorse his Democratic opponent did not play a role in his decision to take over the Gamble case.
(Associated Press, September 13, 2007). See Arbitrariness, Juveniles, and New Voices.