HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – For some the death penalty is seen as justice served against people who committed horrible acts. For others, it is seen as an abuse of power and a continuation of violence.
As state Republican lawmakers gear up to bring the Fair Justice Act before House and Senate judiciary committee on Tuesday, death penalty opponents are fighting back.
“I think there are better options. I personally prefer in life without parole, and I think that would be a much better solution for Alabama and these families,” said Clete Wetli, Chairman of the Madison County Democratic Party.
Earlier this month, Attorney General Luther Strange toured Alabama, introducing the plan that aims to expedite the appeals process in capital murder cases, bye allowing Direct Appeals and Rule 32 appeals to occur at the same time, rather than in succession.
Supporters, like Strange and District Attorneys across the state, say the bill would lessen the amount of time criminals spend on death row.
It is modeled after a similar law in Texas, that decreased the amount of time from conviction to execution down to 8 years.
“I think what they ought to be focused on is making the court system more efficient but not eliminating people’s right to appeal,” countered Wetli.
Since the early 1970s, at least 130 people have been released from death row due to wrongful conviction.
Wetli says speeding up the appeals process will open the door for even more mistakes.
“There are certainly a lot of emotions attached to the death penalty cases,” said Wetli. “But when we look at the criminal justice system the operative word there is justice, so I’m leery of trying to speed things through in a system that is underfunded.
Wetli says he believes there is an alternative.
“My heart goes out to families who have suffered a loss like that, and no amount of sentencing can bring their loved one back,” said Wetli. “I think justice can be served by having people spend life in prison [without parole].”
The bill could come up for a vote as early as Wednesday.