On Thursday evening, Nathaniel Woods was executed by the state of Alabama, despite his claims of innocence to the 2004 killings of three police officers. He was convicted of capital murder as an accomplice and sentenced to death. Many activists called on Alabama Governor Kay Ivey to commute his sentence so his life would be spared. The “pro-life” governor did not oblige, however, and Woods was pronounced dead at 9:01 p.m. on Thursday after the execution lasted about 15 minutes, the Montgomery Advertiser reported.
Woods’ death comes after another defendant, Kerry Spencer, actually confessed to pulling the trigger on officers Carlos Owen, Harley Chisholm and Charles Bennett on June 17, 2004 when they showed up to a home where Spencer and Woods were selling drugs. They reportedly had an outstanding warrant for Woods while Spencer was asleep when they arrived. One witness at the time of the trial, Marquita McClure, testified that the cops ripped the “locked door off its hinges and rushed inside” to apprehend Woods.
“They jumped on him in the kitchen,” she continued. “After that, everything happened so fast.”
Woods “quickly surrendered” to the police after they rushed in, according to court documents filed by prosecutors in the 2019 request to set Woods’ execution date. Meanwhile, another man reportedly woke Spencer up, and McClure testified that Spencer then grabbed a nearby rifle and opened fire after he saw an officer draw a gun.
Spencer, who was also convicted of capital murder and is currently on death row, corroborated this claim in a letter from prison, according to CNN. He maintained that Woods was “100% innocent. I know this to be a fact because I’m the person that shot and killed all three officers.” He continued, “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.”
Woods was arrested as an accomplice when McClure initially told officers that she heard him “threaten to kill Owen” earlier in the day. In court documents, prosecutors say Woods was heard screaming “Fu** the police” and “threatened to ‘fu** [Officer Owen] up.’” However, on trial, McClure recanted, saying she didn’t think the shooting was premeditated, instead she just told investigators what they wanted to hear.
Activists like Martin Luther King III pled with Governor Ivey to commute Woods’ sentence, citing Spencer’s confession, conflicting evidence and mishandling by Woods’ lawyers as a reason to pull his death sentence. Hours before Woods died, the US Supreme Court temporarily halted his execution but later denied the stay.
Governor Ivey provided a statement after Woods execution according to Fox 10. “As explained by the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals, the evidence showed that Woods was an integral participant in the intentional murder of these three officers,” it read. “There is no evidence, and no argument has been made, that Nathaniel Woods tried to stop the gunman from committing these heinous crimes.”
Ivey continued, “Under Alabama law, someone who helps kill a police officer is just as guilty as the person who directly commits the crime. Since 1983, Alabama has executed two individuals for being an accomplice to capital murder. 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.”
She then went on to say her “thoughts and most sincere prayers” are with the families of Officers Chisholm, Owen and Bennett. Meanwhile, she offered no condolences to Woods’ family.
Many people were outraged by Ivey’s support of Woods’ execution and the death penalty when she’s vehemently taken a “pro-life,” anti-abortion stance. In fact, back in 2019 she signed into law the Alabama Human Life Protection Act. The law would allow doctors to be sentenced up to life in prison if they carried out abortions, according to CNN. The sweeping anti-abortion law also doesn’t exempt rape and incest victims who might want to have an abortion. In a tweet announcing her signing of the law, Ivey wrote, “…this legislation stands as a powerful testament to Alabamians’ deeply held belief that every life is precious & that every life is a sacred gift from God.”
“Gov. Kay Ivey signed that “every life is precious … is a sacred gift from God” WORTHLESS Act,” tweeted Dr. Stephen Ogunyemi. “Killer confessed! Alabama has to MURDER another black man! You are a disgrace with stupid nonsense of protection of life in womb. You can not be fair to the one alive!”
A Change.org petition has already surfaced online demanding Ivey’s resignation. As of Friday, it’s received over 8,000 signatures.