BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – An op-ed piece by two former Alabama governors is striking up conversation on a long-debated topic, the death penalty.
Former Republican Governor Robert Bentley and former Democratic Governor Don Siegelman wrote about their regrets of involvement with the death penalty in the state for the Washington Post.
The title of the former governors’ op-ed a bold statement itself: “We oversaw executions as governor. We regret it.”
Bentley and Siegelman say out of the 167 inmates on death row in Alabama, 146 should not be there.
Siegelman says he and Bentley spent the last six months doing research and writing their op-ed on the death penalty in Alabama. Siegelman says because of prosecutorial misconduct and people being sentenced to death without a unanimous jury or by judicial override, there are likely people on Alabama’s death row who will be wrongly executed.
“In this case, we’re not talking about whether or not people believe in the death penalty or not, it’s whether you believe in our constitution and the right to trial by jury and the fact that these 146 people wouldn’t be on death row in any other state,” says Siegelman.
CBS 42 political analyst Steve Flowers says Siegelman and Bentley brought forward interesting data and he’s glad a conversation is sparked about it. However, Flowers doesn’t think their op-ed will do much to change the opinions of death penalty supporters in the state.
“These people sitting on death row have not only had a jury trial of twelve peers in the county they come from have convicted them of murder or whatever they’re accused of and convicted of, but they go on to the Court of Criminal Appeals and the Court of Criminal Appeals in Alabama has heard the case and says ‘is any error in here?’,” says Flowers. “Then furthermore, they’ve got the means and are afforded by the state to go to the state supreme court.”
Flowers says while unfortunate, many may not give credence to Siegelman and Bentley’s research because of their own histories with prosecution.
“He and Siegelman have both had a personal experience which makes them look at things through a different eye than someone who did not get prosecuted,” says Flowers.
Attorney General Steve Marshall issued the following statement in response to the op-ed:
“Messrs. Bentley and Siegelman are certainly entitled to their rearview opinions on Alabama’s use of the death penalty. And Alabamians, who overwhelmingly support the death penalty, are likewise entitled to their opinions on why these two former governors harbor such hard feelings toward prosecutors.”
Siegelman says he hopes the state legislature passes House Bill 14 which would require a unanimous jury in order to sentence someone to death.