Nathaniel Woods or Nate Woods was executed by the Alabama State authorities late on Thursday March 5, barely minutes after the United States Supreme Court refused to stay his execution. This has led to an uproar by civil rights activists who have long decried the shoddy indictment of Woods and have opposed the death penalty awarded to him. Woods, along with his co-defendant Kerry Spencer, was accused of killing three police officers in 2004 and was awarded capital punishment in 2005.
The case attracted nationwide attention because of the nature of the indictment against Woods. Prosecutors never accused him of having committed the murders, but of leading the police to the scene where Spencer fired at the officers, killing three and injuring one.
Prosecutors’ representing the State argued that Woods’ actions had caused the deaths of the police officers, whether or not he intended to kill them. Spencer, himself a prime accused, was on record stating that Woods was not involved or aware of what would take place. In fact, Woods had fled the scene when gunfire was being exchanged.
Woods was found guilty based on the majority opinion of a divided jury. Under usual circumstances, a non-unanimous verdict by the jury leads to a mistrial. But the judge in this case decided to go with the majority verdict, sentencing Woods to death in 2005.
For over 16 years since the beginning of the case, civil rights groups have consistently opposed the verdict against Woods and raised questions regarding the possibility of a racial bias since he is Black.
Woods’ lawyers petitioned governor Kay Ivey to commute his sentence, but received no response. Just hours before the planned execution, the US Supreme Court had passed a temporary halt as it heard petitions requesting for a stay. But as the Supreme Court refused to stay the execution, State authorities promptly executed someone many believe to be an innocent man on Thursday night.