An Alabama man convicted of killing three police officers is lending his voice to defenders of Nathaniel Woods, a co-defendant who is scheduled to be executed Thursday for the same crime despite questions about his culpability.
Lawyers for Nathaniel Woods, 42, have maintained his innocence, pointing out that another defendant in the case, Kerry Spencer, confessed that he was the sole gunman in the 2004 slayings.
“Nathaniel Woods is 100 per cent innocent,” Spencer wrote from prison in a handwritten letter released this week by one of Woods’ attorneys.
“I know this to be a fact because I’m the person that shot and killed all three of the officers.”
Woods’ attorneys have asked Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey to commute his sentence. Woods is to be executed by injection on Thursday.
Ivey’s office told CNN she will have no comment until a decision is made. There was no immediate comment from the state Attorney General’s office.
Woods’ relatives and supporters plan to protest outside the state Capitol in Montgomery on Wednesday afternoon, CNN affiliate WVTM reported.
“Nathaniel Woods doesn’t even deserve to be incarcerated, let alone executed,” Spencer wrote.
“I pray that my words don’t fall on blind eyes or deaf ears,” the inmate added. “Don’t allow another innocent man to be executed if you can do something to put a stop to it. This is my most fervent prayer.”
Similar appeals have been made by a number of supporters and activists, including Martin Luther King III.
The son of the civil rights icon wrote in a letter to the governor this week: “In just 2 days, your state, and the state I was born in, is set to kill a man who is very likely innocent.”
“Killing this African American man, whose case appears to have been strongly mishandled by the courts, could produce an irreversible injustice,” he wrote.
Lawyers say defence was inadequate
Relatives of two of the Birmingham police officers who were killed in 2004 — Carlos Owen and Charles Bennett — have declined comment. Family of the third officer, Harley Chisolm, have not respond to a request for comment.
Woods’ attorneys have said he had a court-appointed lawyer who had never handled a capital case, conducted an inadequate investigation and failed to advise him properly about taking a plea deal that was offered.
Prosecutor said that on June 17, 2004, Birmingham police officers were in the process of arresting Woods at an apartment where he was dealing drugs with Spencer, the state attorney general’s office said in a statement after the US Supreme Court turned down Woods’ appeal last year.
Spencer opened fire, killing three of the officers and wounding a fourth, according to prosecutors.
In 2005, Woods was convicted of capital murder and attempted murder, and was sentenced to death. Spencer also was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death, the attorney general’s office said. Spencer remains in prison with appeals pending in his case.
Among those supporting Woods is Bart Starr Jr., the son of the late NFL Hall of Fame quarterback. “What took place was simultaneously a tragedy for three families of police officers, but now another potential tragedy because the system has failed an individual,” Starr told CNN affiliate WBRC.
“Simply being at the wrong place where someone else shows up and then starts firing at police officers is not a reason to assign culpability to someone else,” he added.
This article was reproduced from CNN with permission.
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