Today, the U.S. Supreme Court denied cert. (refused to hear) the case of Woodward v. Alabama. The issue in Woodward was whether a judge could override the jury's decision to spare the defendant from the death penalty. Alabama is one of three states that allows the trial judge to override the recommendation of the jury with regards to sentencing the defendant to death. In the specific case of Woodward, the jury voted 8-4 against imposing the death penalty and instead recommended that the defendant receive a life sentence without the chance for parole. Nonetheless, the Alabama trial judge, after hearing new evidence, sentenced the defendant to death.
Two justices (Sotomayor and Breyer) dissented in the denial of cert. In her dissent, Justice Sotomayor noted the following:
One Alabama judge, who has overridden jury verdicts to impose the death penalty on six occasions, campaigned by running several advertisements voicing his support for capital punishment. One of these ads boasted that he had “‘presided over more than 9,000 cases, including some of the most heinous murder trials in our history,’” and expressly named some of the defendants whom he had sentenced to death, in at least one case over a jury’s contrary judgment.
To read more about this case issue go here.