December 01, 2016 7:29 PM
Alabama death row inmate asks governor for clemency
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – An Alabama inmate scheduled to be executed next week is asking the governor to stop his execution because a judge imposed a death sentence over the jury's recommendation of life imprisonment.
Attorneys for Ronald Bert Smith wrote in a letter to Gov. Robert Bentley that the judge overrode the jury's will to impose the death penalty, and Alabama is unique in allowing that to happen. The letter was released Thursday.
Smith is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection Dec. 8 for the 1994 slaying of Huntsville convenience store clerk Casey Wilson during a robbery. A jury recommended life imprisonment by a 7-5 vote, but a judge sentenced Smith to the death penalty.
"Thirty-one states and the federal government allow the death penalty, but today, Alabama is the only one that empowers judges to override jury verdicts for life," Smith's attorneys said in a statement released Thursday.
The governor's press office declined to comment on the clemency request.
Smith's attorneys are pointing to a U.S. Supreme Court decision from January that struck down Florida's death penalty sentencing structure because it gave too much power to judges to impose death sentences. The Alabama attorney general's office has argued that there are enough differences with Alabama's law to make it constitutional.
The Alabama Supreme Court last week ruled the execution should proceed. Smith plans to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.