MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) — The Alabama Supreme Court has given the green light to resume executions in the state. Governor Kay Ivey confirms James Barber, a 64-year-old Madison County man sentenced to death for capital murder is set to be executed this summer.
Barber, who was represented by Huntsville defense attorney Robert Tuten, was tried and convicted in Madison County nearly 20 years ago.
The prosecutor in the case was now Madison County District Attorney Rob Broussard.
He says he remembers the case vividly, not entirely because of the criminal, but also the pure innocence of the victim.
“You were talking about a 75-year-old woman who weighed 100 pounds,” he said. “You look at a crime scene, and you realize she’s been killed with what turned out to be a hammer. And you just think I don’t know what prompted this but it was patently unfair.”
Barber was charged with capital murder because the murder was committed during the course of the robbery or attempted robbery of Epps.
In 2004, a Madison County jury convicted Barber of murdering Dottie Epps and recommended 11-1 he be sentenced to death.
Broussard, who was an assistant district attorney at the time of Barber’s trial, explains there was never a doubt that Barber was responsible for Epps’ death.
Barber had been hired by Epps to do some handy work around her home in Harvest, Alabama. There was no sign of forced entry at the scene.
“An investigation turned him up,” Broussard said. “The crime scene had physical evidence, namely there was a bloody palm print that was there. The investigators started looking into who had been around. They, they took that palm print, and he had been arrested before, they matched the prints so they knew they had the right guy.”
Barber would end up confessing to authorities following his arrest.
“In that videotape, Barber was so remorseful or seemingly remorseful and even asked the investigator can’t you just, can’t you just shoot me right now? I don’t deserve to live anymore,” Broussard recalled.
But he says that remorse dwindled and Barber began to claim he was actually innocent.
“He was defiant,” Broussard said. “That was a huge contrast. I remember when he got sentenced, he was, he was mad because the state was referring to him as a handyman, which is what he was at the time.”
Prior to becoming the district attorney in 2009, Broussard spent 21 years as a prosecutor.
He says Barber will be the first person he’s prosecuted that will die by execution in his career.
“It really makes you wonder if it’s not sort of a theoretical exercise that we go through, but I don’t think that’s reason enough to quit on it,” he said. “It’s an accounting here in this life for all of us. And those cases that are, that are really different in the nature of the act, you have to act on it.”
Broussard says the death penalty has a distinct purpose.
“Whether or not it’s an efficient process shouldn’t be a deterrent from seeking a punishment that is just.”