Since 1976, Alabama state judges have overturned 107 jury decisions in capital cases, and in 92 percent of those cases, jury recommendations of life imprisonment were rejected in favor of death sentences, according to a new report by the Equal Justice Initiative, a non-profit law firm based in Montgomery, Ala.
Last November, jurors in Lee County, Alabama, found an African-American Iraq War veteran, Courtney Lockhart, guilty of the 2008 murder of Lauren Burk, a 18-year-old college student. Jurors unanimously decided on a life sentence, but the presiding judge overruled the sentence on March 3, 2011, sentencing Lockhart to death by lethal injection.
Numerous cases like the Lockhart’s have been referenced in the Equal Justice Initiative’s report.
“No capital sentencing procedure in the United States has come under more criticism as unreliable, unpredictable and arbitrary than the unique Alabama practice of permitting elected trial judges to override jury verdicts of life and impose death sentences,” it states.