November 23, 2016
The Honorable Governor Robert Bentley
State Capitol N 104
600 Dexter Ave
Montgomery, AL 36130-2751
As I’m sure you know the State of Alabama is set to execute Mr. Ronald B. Smith Jr. on December 8, 2016. I am writing to ask that you stay Mr. Smith’s execution. You have it within your power as the Governor of the State of Alabama to do so. It would be a legal, fair and reasonable use of the power given to you. I hope that you will use it.
I believe that there are significant problems related to Mr. Smith’s case that make a decision to stay the execution a reasonable course of action. Two things in particular stand out to me.
First, Mr. Smith was sentenced to death via judicial override. The very existence of the practice of judicial override should be abhorrent to anyone who is committed to the principle of a fair trial by a jury of peers. In this case Mr. Smith’s jury of peers recommended a sentence of life without the possibility of parole by a vote of 7-5. Obviously, that sentence was overridden by the judge. I appeal to your sense of fairness and most especially your oath to uphold the U. S. Constitution. Mr. Smith was sentenced to die in an unfair and illegal manner. For this alone he should be granted clemency.
Second, Mr. Smith’s legal counsel was woefully inadequate for the task assigned to him. Mr. Smith’s legal representative failed him specifically at the point of his Rule 32 appeal hearing by missing the filing deadline. I submit to you that if there is to be a penalty enacted for missing the deadline it should be enacted against his counsel not against Mr. Smith. Again, where is the fairness in punishing Mr. Smith for the mistakes of his counsel?
Does the law exist to make sure that all the administrative details are met on time or does it exist to determine guilt and innocence? Because Mr. Smith was denied his Rule 32 hearing through no fault of his own we will never know what that hearing may have uncovered. This is a shameful way to conduct ourselves in the pursuit of justice.
As you well know there are many challenges to the problematic way in which the State of Alabama execution protocols are administered. As a citizen of this state I am ashamed to know that those protocols are not made public and that much of what happens in regard to executions is kept hidden from the public. I believe that every detail of the state’s execution protocol should be made public (I also believe that the total cost of each execution from the time of arrest to the time of execution should be made public). By insisting that this execution go forward the state is very possibly going to inflict cruel and unusual punishment on Mr. Smith.
I am also troubled by the timing of the execution. As a Christian you must be aware of the fact that this execution is scheduled to take place during the Holy Season of Advent during which we Christians are preparing our hearts and minds to receive the Christ child, the Prince of Peace into the world. I confess to you that I cannot begin to comprehend how a Christian who has the power to prevent a death would refuse to do so during this most holy season of the year.
Thank you for considering my concerns.
The Reverend Tom Duley
Vestavia Hills, AL 35216