Nathaniel Woods, a forty-three year-old man from Birmingham, Alabama, was executed on Thursday, March 5th for the 2004 murder of three police officers. Woods had been convicted in 2005, along with his friend and co-defendant, Kerry Spencer. Jurors voted to sentence Woods to death in a non-unanimous vote of 10-2. Spencer, who is currently on death row, has claimed from the beginning that Woods was innocent. According to Spencer, Woods did not pull the trigger, he ran when the firing began. Prosecutors, on the other hand, argued that even though Woods was not the shooter, he was an accomplice and not an innocent bystander. According to Governor Kay Ivey, under Alabama state law individuals who help kill police officers are just as guilty as the person who directly commits the crime. Juries also do not need to be unanimous to impose the death penalty. As the execution date neared, supporters and civil rights activists argued that in addition to Spencer stating that Woods was not involved, Woods attorneys missed important deadlines in his appeals. The Supreme Court issued a temporary stay of execution on Thursday, hours before the execution was to take place. However, the stay was lifted, as Alabama Governor Kay Ivey claimed it was “unwarranted.” Despite Spencer’s confession and mass protests from the public, Woods was executed on Thursday, March 5th via lethal injection. He was pronounced dead at 9:01 PM. Corrections officials reported that Woods did not make any final statements. Woods’ execution was met with public outcry, as it highlights the controversial issues surrounding the use of the death penalty in the United States, inadequate legal representation, and the tactics used by prosecutors.
Instructors, click on the link below to download this week’s lecture for use in your classroom.
The deck contains a writing prompt, a debate question, as well as other assessment questions.
- Writing: Why was Nathaniel Woods convicted and sentenced to death if he did not pull the trigger?
- Debate: Nathaniel Woods should not have been executed.
- Poll: Do you believe that the death penalty should be abolished?
- Short Answer: Is the practice of imposing a death sentence on only a majority of votes constitutional?
Image credit: Photo of the lethal injection room at San Quentin State Prison by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.