A US man has been executed despite a last minute review of his case.
The US Supreme Court has lifted its temporary stay to review the case of an Alabama man convicted of killing three police officers in 2004.
Nathaniel Woods, 44, was executed by lethal injection today – the first execution in the state this year.
Woods’ lawyers have always maintained his innocence, pointing out that another defendant in the case confessed to being the lone gunman.
“After thorough and careful consideration of the facts surrounding the case, the initial jury’s decision, the many legal challenges and reviews, I concluded that the state of Alabama should carry out Mr Woods’ lawfully imposed sentence this evening,” Governor Ivey said in a statement after Woods was executed.
Woods and the shooter, Kerry Spencer, were convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in the slayings of the three Birmingham officers that rocked Alabama’s largest city that year.
Carlos Owen, Harley A. Chisolm III and Charles R. Bennett died in the gunfire while trying to serve a misdemeanour domestic assault warrant on Woods at a suspected drug dealing house.
Prosecutors said Spencer was the triggerman in the slaying, opening fire on the officers with a high-powered rifle inside the apartment, but Woods was convicted as an accomplice.
Such convictions are allowed under state law, and other people have been executed for “non-triggerman” slayings.
A jury recommended Woods receive the death penalty by a 10-2 vote.
Supporters, including the son of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr, Kim Kardashian West and Woods’ family, appealed for mercy to stop the execution.
Supporters argued that Spencer said he was the sole person responsible for the shootings and that Woods received an unfair trial in 2005.
“Killing this African American man, whose case appears to have been strongly mishandled by the courts, could produce an irreversible injustice. Are you willing to allow a potentially innocent man to be executed?” Martin Luther King III wrote to Alabama Governor Kay Ivey.
Testimony showed the officers approached a small house where Woods and Spencer were believed to deal drugs; at least two other people were also inside.
After talking to Woods through a back door, Officers Owen and Chisholm entered.
State lawyers wrote in court filings that Woods said he was surrendering to officers and soon after Spencer opened fire with a high-powered rife.
Mr Owen, 58, and Mr Chisholm, 40, were found dead in the kitchen just inside a rear door, and Mr Bennett, 33, was fatally shot near the front door. A fourth officer was wounded but survived.
Spencer testified at his trial that he made a quick decision to open fire, according to news reports.
Jurors heard Spencers’ videotaped confession to police.
Woods’ family members and defence lawyers said he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“Nathaniel had no part in those actions of another man, Kerry Spencer,” Pamela Woods told reporters.
Prosecutors argued Woods played a role in the slayings, and lured officers into the apartment.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall asked Gov. Ivey to let the execution proceed.
“Although Woods was not the shooter, he was hardly an innocent bystander,” Mr Marshall wrote in a letter to Gov. Ivey.
Woods’ lawyers unsuccessfully appealed his conviction, arguing he had ineffective counsel and that the trial had multiple errors, including the admission of song lyrics and drawings taken from his cell while he was awaiting trial.
State attorneys said that while Woods was awaiting trial, deputies found a drawing of a bullet-riddled police car in his jail cell and song lyrics about killing such as, “Haven’t you ever heard of a killa I drop pigs like Kerry Spencer.”
Woods’ attorneys had asked the US Supreme Court to stay the execution over what they said was a lack of information given to inmates when they had to decide whether nitrogen hypoxia — an execution method authorised but not yet implemented by the state — would be their preferred execution method.
A one-sentence statement from the Supreme Court didn’t elaborate on how long the stay would remain in effect as Alabama officials awaited word on whether they would proceed later.
Woods didn’t pick a method.
Attorneys said inmates did not know that would affect the timing of their execution.
The state is not scheduling executions for inmates who picked nitrogen because the state has not developed the method.
No execution date has been set for Spencer, who was convicted before Woods and is on death row at Holman Prison.
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