State appeals circuit judge’s ruling on death penalty system

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) – Alabama’s attorney general is asking the state court of criminal appeals to vacate a judge’s ruling that declared Alabama’s death penalty sentencing system unconstitutional.

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange said in a petition filed Thursday that Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Tracie Todd doesn’t have the authority to prevent the state from seeking the death penalty against defendants who are charged with capital murder.

Juries recommend sentences in Alabama death penalty cases, but judges have the final say.

Todd issued a decision March 3 blocking prosecutors from seeking the death penalty against four men charged in three slayings after defense attorneys cited a U.S. Supreme Court Decision that declared a similar sentencing system in Florida unconstitutional.

Prosecutors have said Alabama’s sentencing system has key differences from Florida’s and is constitutional.