ADVISORY BOARD MEMBER SAM L SULLINS TELLS SENATOR CAM WARD:
GO FOR 237 AND 117
February 29, 2016
Senator Cam Ward
Senate Judiciary Committee
Alabama State House
11 S. Union St.
Montgomery, AL 36130
Dear Senator Ward,
Thank you, thank you and thank you again for your efforts to get SB237 (to create an Innocence Inquiry Commission) out of a committee and onto the Senate floor for a vote. Our justice system is filled with human error both intentional and unintentional from the defense and prosecutors. Hopefully, the Senate will recognize the importance and meaning of the bill and vote in favor of it.
In spite of Mr. Strange’s and Ms. Grantham’s opposition to anything that is common sense and expresses justice and compassion for all, the Judiciary Committee had the courage to do what was right, analyze its impact on defendants, and vote it out of committee. Our judicial system will improve in a meaningful method for those who were swindled out of their life.
I would also ask that you urge your committee to analyze SB117 (a judge will be prohibited from overriding a jury verdict) by looking at its significance on capital cases. As you are aware, in a January decision, the Supreme Court, in an eight to one vote, overruled Florida’s judicial override law because it violated the Sixth Amendment. The jury is not an advisory unit; it is the final decision.
We have the same problem. An elected judge can and has overridden a jury decision. In fact, approximately forty death penalty inmates are there because the judge felt the jury was an advisory unit and he/she was in charge. Many of that forty were overridden in an election year. Is a defendents life less important than a judge’s election win?
In our current law, the phrase "an advisory verdict" appears eleven times, and we need to make our juries the example of the Sixth Amendment and not an unimportant factor in trials.
Before someone takes an Alabama judicial override case to the Supreme Court and the costs will be astronomical, let’s change and adopt SB117.
Again, thank you for your efforts and vote to get SB237 on the Senate floor for a vote. Please use your influence and motivate the thirty-five other senators to vote, "yes."
Sam L. Sullins
Huntsville, AL 35802