MLK’s son asks Alabama to stop inmate’s upcoming execution scheduled for tonight


By KIM CHANDLER, The Associated Press

The son of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as family members of a condemned Alabama inmate, are asking the governor to to stop Thursday’s execution of the man convicted in the 2004 killing of three police officers but who was not the trigger man.

Nathaniel Woods is scheduled to be executed by injection March 5 at a south Alabama prison.

Woods and co-defendant Kerry Spencer were convicted of capital murder for the 2004 killings of Birmingham police officers Carlos Owen, Harley A. Chisolm III and Charles R. Bennett. Spencer was also sentenced to death for the killings.

Prosecutors said the officers were gunned down in an ambush as they tried to serve a misdemeanor warrant on Woods at a home where he and Spencer sold crack cocaine.

Family members on Wednesday planned to deliver letters to Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey to request to stop the execution.

“There is no evidence that there was any plan or scheme to kill the police officers; they were killed by one man (Spencer) acting alone,” a news release about the letters stated.

Martin Luther King, III sent Gov. Ivey a March 3 letter “pleading with you not to execute Nathaniel Woods.” King wrote on Twitter Tuesday that the execution is an “injustice.”

Prosecutors in 2005 maintained that Woods helped set an ambush for the officers even though Spencer was the trigger man. Lawyers for the Alabama attorney general’s office wrote in a court filing that Woods ran deeper into the apartment and told officers he was surrendering before gunfire erupted. A surviving officer said he saw Spencer standing in the doorway and shooting in his direction.

“By the time help arrived, the other three officers were dead. Officer Bennett was discovered with a smoking hole in his face, and Officers Owen and Chisolm were found in the apartment. Each had died from multiple gunshot wounds,” the Alabama attorney general’s office said in a request to schedule the execution date.

A jury convicted Woods of multiple counts of capital murder and of the attempted murder of another officer.

The U.S. Supreme Court turned down his appeal last year. Attorneys for Woods unsuccessfully appealed his conviction, arguing that he had ineffective counsel and the trial had multiple errors, including the admission of song lyrics and drawings in his cell.

State attorneys said that while Woods was awaiting trial, deputies found a drawing of a bullet-riddled police car in his cell and song lyrics about killing such as, “Haven’t you ever heard of a killa I drop pigs like Kerry Spencer.”

His attorneys have a pending challenge before the 11th U.S Circuit Court of Appeals related to what they said was a lack of information given to inmates when they had to select if nitrogen hypoxia, an execution method authorized but not yet implemented by the state, would be their preferred execution method. Woods did not make a selection and will be excuted by lethal injection.

Attorneys for Woods said the state “failed to inform him that, because the state of Alabama did not have a nitrogen hypoxia execution protocol, he was also making a decision (or indecision) regarding the timing of his execution.”

Lawyers for the state called the challenge a last-minute bid to try to postpone the sentence being carried out.