NEW VOICES: Former Judge Changes Mind on Death Sentence as Execution Approaches

Retired Alabama Judge Loyd Little (pictured) recently changed his mind about a death sentence he imposed on Derrick Mason in 1995 for a murder during a convenience store robbery. Mason is scheduled for execution on September 22. Judge Little wrote a letter to be submitted to Alabama Governor Robert Bentley requesting that Mason’s sentence be commuted to life in prison without parole. The judge explained the change in his thinking: “Years of experience and seeing so many other capital murder cases where it was imposed and where it was not imposed… . I realized it really was not the right decision.” Judge Little had only been on the bench six months when he heard Mason’s case. In Alabama, the jury makes only a recommendation regarding sentencing. The trial judge makes the actual life or death decision.

Retired Madison County District Attorney Tim Morgan, who prosecuted Mason, criticized the judge: “I find it to be kind of cowardly now that he’s retired and no one has the chance to run against him.”

(K. Clines, “Retired Madison County judge who sentenced convenience store killer to death changes his mind,” Huntsville Times, September 8, 2011). See New Voices and Arbitrariness.