On Thursday evening, Nathaniel Woods was put to death for the fatal shooting of three Alabama police officers. Woods was present when officers Carlos Owen, Harley Chisholm III and Charles Bennett were shot to death in 2004, however, he was not the man behind the trigger. Woods’ co-defendant, Kerry Spencer, who later confessed to the shootings, not only killed the three officers but also shot another officer who survived.
The incident that led up to Woods’ execution happened after officers were sent to a home in Birmingham where Spencer and Woods resided. The two were allegedly involved in the sale of crack cocaine from their home, says NBC News. When officers arrived to serve a misdemeanor warrant, prosecutors said “Woods set up an ambush that allowed Spencer to shoot at them multiple times.”
That is how the incident played out according to prosecutors.
According to Spencer, who admitted to shooting the officers, he fired his weapon in an act of self-defense. Spencer alleged that officers were assaulting Woods which prompted him to shoot. The news source said this “assertion was not permitted at trial.” Another drug dealer at Woods’ home also accused two of the officers who were shot and killed of “being involved in a corrupt scheme that protected dealers in exchange for money.” The news source says that the Birmingham police declined to comment on that allegation.
Despite the conflicting stories, both Spencer and Woods were charged and convicted of killing the four officers, even though Woods was not the gunman. Both were placed on death row although a date has not been set for Spencer’s execution.
Why was Woods sentenced to death row if wasn’t the shooter?
Although officials received a confession from the gunman along with a statement from the officer who survived acknowledging that it was not Woods who fired the shots, “Woods was tagged as an accomplice, which in Alabama means that even if a person didn’t pull the trigger, they are still eligible for the death penalty.” In fact, the news source cites that Alabama “remains the only state in the nation in which a jury doesn’t have to be unanimous to impose the death penalty and can still enact it with at least 10 jurors in favor.”
Was the death penalty a result of “incompetent counsel?”
According to supporters of Woods, he was the victim of“incompetent counsel.” The source says Woods’ defense attorneys not only “failed to conduct an adequate investigation” but they also “missed key deadlines for appeals.” While Woods could havetaken a plea deal of 20 to 25 years in prison, supporters say “he was wrongly informed by his own attorneys that he wouldn’t be convicted of capital murder because the state needed to prove he pulled the trigger.”
As a result of the information he was given, Woods “did not accept this plea deal because he thought — with counsel’s encouragement — that he would be acquitted of these charges because the evidence would prove that he was not the shooter that day.”
Unfortunately, things didn’t go as Woods and his attorneys expected.
Over time, Woods’ case gained a significant amount of attention from many individuals including Kim Kardashian West and Martin Luther King III. Petitions were created and supporters pushed for the court to review the case again and grant Woods clemency. While the Supreme Court delayed the execution on the evening it was set to occur for a last-minute review, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said, “she would not impede the execution, sealing Woods’ fate.”
On Thursday, March 5, 2020 at 9:01 p.m., Woods was pronounced dead as a result of a legal injection. Woods’ execution was the 67thin the state since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976, says NBC News.