Alabama's Death Sentences Concentrated in One County

Although death sentences have declined around the country, they have dramatically increased in Jefferson County, Alabama, since 1993 when state legislators expanded the death penalty to include drive-by shootings.  Jefferson County, which includes Birmingham, accounted for nearly 50% of the state's death sentences in 2005 and 2006.

According to federal data, Alabama is 23rd in population nationally but has the country's sixth largest death row and is one of the leading states in the nation in per capita death sentences. "There is no question in my mind, Alabama has one of the most expansive death penalty statutes in the country. . . . Alabama has 1/2 the population of Georgia, but routinely sentences 4 times more people to death," noted Bryan Stevenson (pictured), executive director of the Alabama-based Equal Justice Initiative. In Alabama, it only takes 10 jurors to recommend a death sentence. The state also allows judges to override juries when the majority calls for a lesser sentence, a fact that Stevenson said accounts for 20-25% of the death sentences in the state.

(Birmingham News, April 3, 2006). 

See Arbitrariness and Sentencing.