AL AG Marshall applauds Senate passing of Fair Justice Act

Updated: Apr. 19, 2017 at 11:09 AM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Alabama Attorney General Steven T. Marshall says he applauds the Senate's passing the Fair Justice Act, a bill that was introduced at the request of the AG's office.

The Fair Justice Act, sponsored by Sen. Cam Ward, R- District 14, was passed in the Senate on Tuesday. The bill streamlines the appeals process for those death row inmates seeking appeals based on claims of ineffective counsel or juror misconduct, the AG's office says. This is also known as Rule 31, post-conviction relief.

This legislation would require defendants sentenced to death in Alabama to seek Rule 32 post-conviction relief. At the same time, the defendant's direct appeal is pending rather than waiting until the appeal has ended.

"I would like to thank Senator Cam Ward for sponsoring and shepherding this important legislation through the Alabama Senate," said Marshall. "I also want to thank Madison County District Attorney Rob Broussard for championing this much-needed reform of Alabama death sentence appeals which consolidates the time consideration of certain appeals."

Marshall says this act would make the appeals process more efficient, while both maintaining the same opportunities for appellate review and enhancing representation provided to death-row inmates. This would require the appointment of counsel for purposes of seeking Rule 32 within 30 days of the date of sentencing.

"The appellate process for capital cases is extremely lengthy," said Attorney General Marshall.  "Under the current system, a capital defendant may wait up to one year after his direct appeal to file his Rule 32 petition and begin this lengthy appeal process.  The implementation of the Fair Justice Act could result in shortening the average time a death sentence is carried out by five to six years, saving the taxpayers well over $100,000 in total housing costs per inmate.  It also reduces the time victims must wait to see justice carried out in these capital murder cases."

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