Alabama put an inmate to death Thursday evening for the 2004 slayings of three police officers who were shot by another man at a suspected drug house. Nathaniel Woods received a lethal injection at the state prison in Atmore, Alabama, state Attorney General Steve Marshall confirmed in a statement.
Woods’ execution comes after the nation’s highest court refused to block the execution plan, according to local affiliate CBS42. The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday night denied a request to halt the execution after a temporary delay to consider a last-minute appeal. Governor Kay Ivey told Woods’ attorney that she has also denied a request for clemency.
Ivey issued a statement Thursday evening abut Woods’ execution, stating that “after thorough and careful consideration of the facts surrounding this case, the initial jury’s decision, the many legal challenges and review… the state of Alabama should carry out Mr. Woods’ lawfully imposed sentence.”
— Reshad Hudson (@ReshadHudson) March 6, 2020
Woods was convicted in the deaths of three Birmingham police officers and the wounding of a fourth in 2004, but he did not pull the trigger. He was convicted as an accomplice of the gunman, Kerry Spencer. Both were convicted of capital murder and sentenced to die.
According to Spencer, the violence began when police burst into the Birmingham apartment where he sold drugs. Officers were attempting to arrest Woods on an outstanding warrant, according to a summary of the case in an Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals’ opinion. Woods said “OK, I give up” and was being held by officers when Spencer, who said he believed he was under attack, opened fire.
Spencer insisted that he acted alone. In a handwritten letter delivered to a lawyer for Woods this week, Spencer wrote Woods is “100% innocent.”
“I know this to be a fact because I’m the person that shot and killed all three of the officers that Nathaniel was subsequently charged and convicted of murdering,” wrote Spencer, whose appeals are still pending. “Nathaniel Woods doesn’t even deserve to be incarcerated, let alone executed.”
At his 2005 trial, prosecutors argued that Woods hated police and lured the officers into the Birmingham house so Spencer could kill them, essentially plotting their deaths. But Woods has “steadfastly maintained his innocence in any plan to entice the three officers into the house that day,” according to the emergency appeal.
Woods’ current legal team said his previous representation was inadequate, and that evidence including allegations of police misconduct and questionable witness testimony have not been reviewed by appeals courts because of legal missteps.
High-profile advocates, including Martin Luther King III, have spoken out in support of Woods. King released a statement after Woods was executed, decrying the decision.
“In the case of Nathaniel Woods, the actions of the U.S. Supreme Court and the Governor of the State of Alabama are reprehensible, and have potentially contributed to an irreversible injustice,” he wrote. “The rush to execute Mr. Woods makes a mockery of justice.”