Judge sentenced man to death even though jury voted 11-1 for life in prison
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Featured Image Credit: Alabama Department of Corrections / Norma Jean Gargasz / Alamy Stock Photo
An Alabama judge sentenced a man to death even though the jury voted 11-1 for life in prison. Today, he is set to be executed by lethal injection.
Kenneth Smith, 57, was responsible for the murder-for-hire killing of Elizabeth Sennett in 1988.
Both Smith and a man named John Forrest Parker were each paid $1,000 to kill Elizabeth Sennet by her husband, Charles Sennett.
The husband took his own life a week after his wife's death, while Forrest Parker was later executed in 2010.
In 1996, a judge sentenced Smith to death, despite the overwhelming jury majority of 11-1 in favour of life imprisonment.
His attorneys attempted to reverse the judge's decision, but back then, there were no laws in place to prevent a judge overriding the jury's sentencing recommendation in death penalty cases.
If Smith's trial 'had occurred today, he could not have been eligible for execution,' his attorneys wrote.
"Nor would he be subject to execution anywhere else in the United States, as every state that once permitted the practice of judicial override has abandoned it."
Smith is one of four who is set to be executed today (17 November). He is scheduled to receive a lethal injection at the William C. Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore at 6:00pm CT.
Reprieve U.S. director Maya Foa told Newsweek: "Alabama appears determined to persist with lethal injection, no matter how many executions its officials catastrophically mishandle.
"Alan Miller, Joe James and Doyle Lee Hamm were all strapped to the gurney for hours and stabbed repeatedly with needles, but the state is pressing ahead with Kenneth Smith's execution regardless, using the same broken procedure.
"Just last night, in Texas, officials took an hour and a half to kill Stephen Barbee because his disability made it hard to find a usable vein. In Arizona, staff reportedly failed to insert IVs into both Murray Hooper's arms before inserting a catheter into his femoral vein near his groin."
Foa added: "Spate of disastrous lethal injection executions shows that whatever the drug, whatever the protocol, condemned prisoners often spend their final hours in agonising pain and distress.
"With each gruesome scene in the death chamber, we are witnessing the consequences of persisting with a broken method of execution in real time."
State Sen. Dick Brewbaker, who passed the bill that stopped judges from going against the jury, told CNN affiliate WSFA in February 2017: "One of the most important things about our democracy is our laws are derived from the common law.
"That’s why a crime of violence is a crime against a community. That’s why we have a trial in the community. That’s why we pick a jury of the community and they decide guilt, innocence, and punishment."