MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Alabama would fall in the footsteps of North Carolina and create an Innocence Inquiry Commission to review “credible” claims of innocence from people facing the death penalty, under a bill approved Wednesday by a legislative committee.
The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved the bill, although several members said the legislation faced an uncertain outlook on the Senate floor.
“I am absolutely for the death penalty. That is not what this is about,” bill sponsor, Sen. Dick Brewbaker, R-Pike Road said.
“If we are going to take this on ourselves and deny them the ability to accept Christ, and all the other things that go with being alive, then we have the obligation to be absolutely sure that the people we’re executing are in fact guilty,” Brewbaker said.
Brewbaker said there have been high-profile cases of death row inmates who have been exonerated.
North Carolina has exonerated nine people after starting a similar commission in 2007. The North Carolina panel can review felony convictions. Brewbaker’s bill would only review capital cases.
The attorney general’s office and a victim’s advocate spoke against the bill.
“There are already layers and layers of appeals and process in place to ensure that people are convicted of capital crimes are rightfully convicted,” Assistant Attorney General Thomas Govan told the committee.
The bill would also place a moratorium on executions until June 1, 2017.
The bill now moves to the Alabama Senate.
Anthony Ray Hinton was freed last year after nearly three decades on Alabama’s from death row. The U.S. Supreme Court had ordered a new trial for Hinton and new ballistics tests failed to match crime scene bullets to Hinton’s revolver.
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