Nathaniel Woods was executed in Alabama on Thursday (March 6), despite a temporary stay on the execution and pleas to reconsider the evidence against him in a case that drew wide attention, the Montgomery Advertiser reports.
Woods, 43, pronounced dead at 9:01 p.m. at the William C. Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Alabama just hours after the U.S. Supreme Court ordered a temporary stay while being reviewed by justices.
But the stay was soon lifted and Woods was put to death by lethal injection.
Woods was convicted for the June 2004 murders of three Birmingham, Alabama police officers, Carlos Owen, Harley A. Chisolm III, and Charles R. Bennett. Woods did not kill the cops himself, prosecutors conceded, but was labeled an accomplice to the crime — an offense punishable by death in Alabama. But Kerry Spencer, Woods friend and co-defendant in the case, says he is the one who fired the gun that claimed the officers’ lives. Spencer’s case is still awaiting appeal.
Woods’ case gained nationwide attention over the past week, with many calling for courts to review new evidence that could prove his innocence. He was initially set to die by execution Thursday night at 6:00pm local time.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey released a statement on the execution, that she declined the request to stop.
“Under Alabama law, someone who helps kill a police officer is just as guilty as the person who directly commits the crime,” she said. “Since 1983, Alabama has executed two individuals for being an accomplice to capital murder.”
“This is not a decision that I take lightly, but I firmly believe in the rule of law and that justice must be served,” Ivey said.
“My thoughts and most sincere prayers are for the families of Officers Chisolm, Owen and Bennet. May the God of all comfort be with these families as they continue to find peace and heal from this terrible crime.
Woods attorneys filed a second petition at 7:06 p.m. in response to the U.S. Supreme Court issuing its temporary stay. His second petition stated that Woods had ineffective counsel, as presented by a new team of defense attorneys:
“Mr. Woods has never had the benefit of competent, conflict-free counsel to investigate and present his constitutional claims, so the public cannot be assured that his proceedings have adhered to the Constitution.”
The Alabama Attorney General’s Office soon responded:
“First, Woods is not entitled to a stay because his motion is extraordinarily untimely. Second, he cannot show a substantial likelihood of success on merits. Thus, the motion is due to be denied.
By 7:52 p.m., the court declined to review Woods’ case and lifted the original stay of execution.
AL.com reports that Woods spoke to his mother, father, and two friends on Wednesday and spoke again to his mom and two friends on Thursday. Alabama Department of Corrections Public Information Specialist, Samantha Rose said that Woods was also visited by family and friends days before his final hours.
“The actions of the US Supreme Court and the Governor of the State of Alabama are reprehensible and have potentially contributed to an irreversible injustice,” Martin Luther King III, the civil rights icon’s son, and an advocate for Woods wrote on Twitter of Woods’ execution.
“It makes a mockery of justice and constitutional guarantees to a fair trial,” he said.