MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) — Madison County District Attorney Rob Broussard says the decision to pursue the death penalty in a case is not an easy one.
Throughout his career, he says the especially heinous murder cases always stand out as candidates for the death penalty. But even still he says his team thoroughly examines each individual capital case.
“There are many cases I’ve handled, you look at them and say ‘why would they stab them 29 times?’ Why was there a torture element?'” Broussard stated.
There are currently five defendants facing the death penalty in Madison County:
- LaJeromeny Brown
- David McCoy
- Yoni Aguilar
- Israel Palomino
- Otis Mayes
Brown is charged with capital murder in the 2019 shooting death of Huntsville police officer Billy Clardy III. McCoy was an off-duty Huntsville police officer at the time of his arrest. He was charged with capital murder earlier this year in the death of his pregnant girlfriend. Aguilar and Palomino are both facing the death penalty in the suspected cartel killings of a grandmother and her granddaughter in 2018. Mayes is also facing the death penalty in the 2017 shooting deaths of two women in five points.
Each case file is different, but Broussard says one common denominator solidifies the decision to seek or not to seek capital punishment.
“The focus is on the pain and suffering of the victim, and we’re very conscientious about what we do,” Broussard said. “Every DA’s office can run however they want to run. But when it comes to capital cases and our decision of whether we’re seeking the death penalty, it’s not it’s not some decision that’s just made on a whim. It’s something we discuss. It’s something we ponder and arguably, we have more experience in that topic than anyone else.”
Of the five pending death penalty cases, only Palomino has a trial date set. McCoy has not been indicted.
Broussard has been involved in at least a dozen death penalty cases in his career, including prosecuting six of the seven inmates from Madison County currently on death row.
That list includes – in order of the date they were moved to death row – Jeffery Rieber, Joey Wilson, Nicholas Acklin, James Barber, Mohammad Sharifi, and Jason Sharp. Christopher Henderson, of Madison County, received a death sentence last year, and Warren Hardy, who is not listed as a death row inmate, received a death sentence in April in Madison County Circuit Court.
Broussard said delays in the system can magnify the pain and frustration of victims’ families, but he still believes the death penalty is a necessary part of the justice system.
“If we are willing to agree that certain conduct is going to merit the most extreme punishment, I think as a community it means something to folks,” Broussard said. “That there are some things that we just won’t tolerate. And, we’re going to prove to you we won’t tolerate it because now you’re on the books for an execution date.”
Broussard said in his experience, death penalty case evidence is generally very strong, or the case wouldn’t move forward to that proposed end. And, he said the scrutiny death penalty cases receive should help publicly confidence that the adversarial system is working.
“Death penalty appeals and scrutiny is like no other and, I don’t disagree with that, I really don’t,” Broussard said. “The proposition that the State of Alabama is going to extinguish somebody’s life, I’d be the last one to say, ‘Ah, let’s just rush through it, you know they’re guilty.’ There should be a thorough vetting and appeal in the case, but it should not be protracted, and game-playing and lasting for 25 years. You can do it in six or seven years, and be completely thorough.”
Alabama Department of Corrections records shows Alabama’s death row currently has 166 inmates (Joe Nathan James was included in the state’s list). That includes 161 men and five women. The death row inmate population includes 85 white inmates, 79 black inmates, and two listed “other” races.
James’ death would mark Alabama’s second execution this year. Matthew Reeves was executed in January.
The Death Penalty Information Center reports Alabama has executed 69 people since 1983.