A man convicted of shooting dead three police officers in 2004 has been executed, despite last-minute legal attempts to overturn the death penalty.
Nathaniel Woods was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in 2005 for the killing of three police officers the year before, despite never having pulled the trigger.
According to authorities, Woods and his roommate Kerry Spencer were dealing crack cocaine from their home when three officers – Carlos Owen, Harley Chisolm and Charles Bennett – were shot dead while trying to serve an arrest warrant.
Spencer admitted he was the actual gunman who shot the officers several times, but prosecutors argued Woods was also responsible for their deaths because he ‘conspired’ with his roommate in the killing.
There were also claims from Woods’ lawyers the case had been mishandled due to alleged police misconduct and poor legal representation. Woods was apparently portrayed as criminal mastermind during the trial, planning the shooting and setting the officers up for it. However, no evidence of this was ever found. On the other hand, evidence was discovered the officers trying to arrest Woods had previously accepted bribes in exchange for protecting the drug-selling operation, according to VICE.
Woods appealed his conviction, arguing his lawyer misinformed him by saying he could not be convicted of capital murder as an accomplice, while also convincing Woods to reject a plea deal offered to him by prosecutors, ABC News reports. The judge in Alabama decided in favour of both Woods’ and Spencer’s execution, despite only 10 out of 12 jury members voting for the death penalty.
In a last-ditch attempt to save Woods from execution, his sister stood outside the doors of the Alabama State Capitol Wednesday, February 5, telling reporters:
He’s 100% innocent. Let him go or give us time to have the courts review his case.
According to local media, he was executed shortly after 9pm local time on Thursday, March 5.
Woods’ execution came after the US Supreme Court entered a temporary stay just before it was set to happen, at 6pm, to allow justices a chance to review the case following a last-minute request for clemency from his legal team.
Just over an hour later, the Supreme Court lifted the stay and Alabama governor Kay Ivey said she declined to intervene, meaning any chance to repeal the execution was over.
In the case of Nathaniel Woods, the actions of the U.S. Supreme Court and the Governor of the State of Alabama are reprehensible, and have potentially contributed to an irreversible injustice. It makes a mockery of justice and constitutional guarantees to a fair trial.
— Martin Luther King III (@OfficialMLK3) March 6, 2020
Governor Ivey was handed a letter requesting Woods’ reprieve from the death sentence, though said she would allow the execution to proceed despite the temporary stay.
A spokesperson for Ivey said:
Governor Ivey does not presently intend to exercise her powers of commutation or reprieve in this case.
While Governor Ivey reserves the right to grant clemency at any time before an execution is carried out, she has determined, based on her review of the complete record, including the matters presented in your letter, that clemency for Mr. Woods at this hour is unwarranted.
Martin Luther King III called the decision an ‘irreversible injustice’, which he said ‘makes a mockery of justice and constitutional guarantees to a fair trial’.
ABC News reports that Woods was joined by his family on Thursday afternoon, including his sister and daughter, before he was handed his final meal of chicken, sweet potatoes, spinach, cooked apples, fries, two oranges and an orange flavoured drink.
However, the Alabama Department of Corrections told the news outlet Woods only took one bite of his chicken, before leaving the rest of the meal untouched.
#NathanielWoods is scheduled to be executed in Alabama TONIGHT for murders he did NOT commit. Join the broad coalition- including members of the jury and relatives of the victims – in urging @GovernorKayIvey and @AGSteveMarshall to stay Nate’s execution.
— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) March 5, 2020
Kim Kardashian West, who previously campaigned for the halted execution of Texas death row inmate Rodney Reed, offered her public support to Woods, telling her followers: ‘Nate will die for a crime another man confessed to and says Nate had nothing to do with. My heart and prayers are with Nate and his family and all the advocates who worked tirelessly to save his life.’
Rest in peace, Nathaniel Woods.
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Emma Rosemurgey is an NCTJ trained Journalist who started her career by producing The Royal Rosemurgey newspaper in 2004, which kept her family up to date with the goings on of her sleepy north east village. She graduated from the University of Central Lancashire in Preston and started her career in regional newspapers before joining Tyla (formerly Pretty 52) in 2017, and progressing onto UNILAD in 2019.