The Supreme Court refused to consider challenges to Alabama's death penalty system, the only one in the country that lets judges overrule juries and impose death sentences, reported the USA Today.
The court's denial of several lower court appeals came a year after the justices ruled 8-1 against a similar capital punishment protocol in Florida. Since that decision, state supreme courts there and in Delaware have struck down those systems.
Many opponents of the Alabama system had expected the justices to take up a challenge. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in particular, has criticized the state for allowing elected judges to impose executions even when juries recommend life sentences.
A recent study by the Alabama-based Equal Justice Initiative, one of the groups challenging the state's death penalty system, found that judges overrode jury verdicts 107 times in the four decades since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty. In nearly all those cases, judges imposed death sentences. The study said 21% of 199 people on the state's death row were sentenced through such judicial overrides.
The state executed two prisoners last year, more than any other state except Georgia and Texas. It ranks seventh in total executions since 1976, behind Texas, Oklahoma, Virginia, Florida, Missouri and Georgia.
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