Earlier this year (March 27th 2017), the newly appointed Alabama prosecutors announced that they were no longer seeking the death penalty against Kharon Davis, who has been jailed for nearly 10 years while he awaits trial. The $64,000 Question has to be, why did it take only 30 days for the new prosecutors to make the decision that the previous prosecutors seemingly let drag on for a decade?
Kharon Davis has been held without bail in the Houston County Jail since his arrest in 2007, his supporters say that he has been relentlessly and unfairly punished during the time that he has been held in the jail. He is accused of killing Pete Reeves of Dothan. Davis has maintained his innocence throughout, being charged with capital murder because prosecutors said the shooting occurred during a robbery. Davis’ supporters have argued there was no evidence to support that charge.
The trial, now scheduled for September, has been delayed several times, however the Alabama NAACP announced on May 26th 2017 that a hearing with Judge Kevin Moulton has been scheduled to dismiss the charges altogether. The hearing is on June 6th 2017, 08:30 at the Houston County Courthouse.
Article originally posted on the equal Justice Initiatives website here, June 3, 2016
Today, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals reversed EJI client Jerry Smith’s death sentence for the fourth time, finding that the sentence sought by Houston County District Attorney Doug Valeska was again unconstitutionally obtained.
Mr. Smith was convicted of capital murder and illegally sentenced to death in 1998. That sentence was reversed by the Alabama Supreme Court because the trial court improperly excluded mitigating evidence from the jury’s consideration.
Mr. Smith was illegally sentenced to death a second time; the Alabama Supreme Court reversed that sentence because potential jurors had unconstitutional contact with members of the victims’ family.
Mr. Smith was illegally sentenced to death again in 2012 after a proceeding where the jury was wrongly told to consider an improper sentencing factor. That error was so clear the Attorney General’s Office agreed the case should be reversed and the Court of Criminal Appeals reversed Mr. Smith’s death sentence.
In a fourth sentencing proceeding, District Attorney Doug Valeska again obtained a death sentence for Mr. Smith. That sentence was reversed today because the Court of Criminal Appeals agreed with EJI’s arguments that the trial judge violated the Sixth Amendment when he barred members of the public from the courtroom during the proceedings.
EJI also argued that Mr. Valeska illegally barred African Americans from serving on the jury for Mr. Smith’s fourth sentencing trial. Mr. Valeska removed every one of the 11 qualified African Americans from the jury. As a result, Mr. Smith, who is black, was tried by an all-white jury in a county whose population is 25 percent African American. The Court of Criminal Appeals did not address this issue in today’s opinion because it reversed Mr. Smith’s death sentence because his right to a public trial was violated.
By Richard Branson
16 May 2016 and originally published on Richard’s blog
I was truly touched and humbled to receive the Abolition Award from Death Penalty Focus in California last week. I travelled to California to pick up the award and share my views because I have always believed that the death penalty is cruel, barbaric and inhumane. I wanted to share my remarks from the evening more widely on my blog, as the death penalty is an issue that affects everyone.
It is a violation of human rights that has no place in a civilized society. And I feel we all have a duty to work for its abolition across the world Over the years, I have used my voice, my reach, and my resources to take a stand against the death penalty, in the US and elsewhere. Some countries – like Saudi-Arabia, Iran, China and Pakistan – continue to execute people at an alarming rate, and convictions often follow legal proceedings that violate every standard of fairness and human decency.
Image by Hugh Williams
But there is a glimmer of hope: for the first time ever, the majority of the world’s countries – 102, to be precise – are abolitionist for all crimes. The Republic of Congo, Fiji, Madagascar and Suriname are the latest countries to join the growing list of those that abolished the death penalty for good. This is the moment to turn our attention to the US. By all accounts, the death penalty is on the decline. The number of executions is down, as more states repeal their death penalty statutes. A large portion of death sentences is imposed in just 15 counties across the country. Even red states are no longer bastions of support for the ultimate punishment. A Republican-driven repeal effort in Utah was narrowly defeated just weeks ago, and Nebraska’s legislators voted to abolish the death penalty last year, even though their effort will be challenged this November.
Overall, these developments give me hope that ending the death penalty in the US is no longer a pipe dream, but a growing movement that crosses partisan lines – a movement of those who understand it’s not just the right thing to do, but also the sensible thing to do, no matter how you look at it. Less than 10 years from now, I’m certain, the death penalty in the US will be history. What will get us there? In November, the eyes of the world will be on California as its people decide the fate of the death penalty. It may be the biggest opportunity yet to show that the tide is turning. When California outlaws the deliberate killing of prisoners, and closes down the largest death row in the country, the rest of the civilized world will celebrate with it. You may wonder why a British entrepreneur cares so much about the death penalty in the US. Well, part of the answer is my belief in forgiveness, redemption, and second chances in life. Just a few days ago, I listened to the wonderful Sister Helen Prejean. She made a heartfelt and compassionate case why we should care. “We are worth more than the worst moment of our lives,” she said. That stuck in mind: I couldn’t agree more.