The father and sister of condemned Alabama inmate Nathaniel Woods came to the state Capitol on Wednesday afternoon to proclaim Woods innocent on the day before his scheduled execution.
Pamela Woods spoke outside the Capitol with Nathaniel Woods Sr., alongside. Earlier this afternoon, Molly Cole, an advocate for Woods, delivered letters to Gov. Kay Ivey’s office asking the governor to halt his execution.
In 2005, a Jefferson County jury convicted Woods of capital murder in the deaths of Birmingham police officers Carlos Owen, Harley A. Chisholm III, and Charles R. Bennett and of attempted murder in the shooting of officer Michael Collins. Kerry Spencer was also convicted in the case and is on death row.
Prosecutors said during the trial that Woods drew the officers into an ambush at an apartment in Ensley where they said Woods and Spencer sold crack cocaine. The prosecutors admitted that Spencer – not Woods – was the one who shot the officers.
“We really just want people to see that he really is innocent, that he didn’t have anything to do with the murders of those officers,” Pamela Woods said. “We do feel really bad for what happened that day. We don’t wish that on anyone, for their family to have to deal with that. It was very unfortunate that the shooter did what he did. But the main point is that Nathaniel had no parts in those actions of another man, Kerry Spencer.”
Ivey’s office did not issue a response today to the request to halt the execution.
Attorney General Steve Marshall issued a statement denouncing the effort to stop the execution.
“There is a last-minute movement afoot to ‘save’ cop-killer Nathaniel Woods from his just punishment,” Marshall said. “The message of that movement is encapsulated by the headline of a press release sent out today, which declared: ‘Surrendered and Innocent Man Set to Die.’ That headline contains two falsehoods and one truth. The falsehoods are the descriptors ‘surrendered’ and ‘innocent’: neither apply whatsoever to Nathaniel Woods, whose actions directly caused the deaths of three policemen and injury to another. The truth is ‘set to die’: Nathaniel Woods was correctly found guilty and sentenced to death by a jury of his peers, and that sentence is set to be carried out tomorrow; that is, justice is set to be carried out tomorrow. The only injustice in the case of Nathaniel Woods is that which was inflicted on those four policemen that terrible day in 2004.”
On Monday, U.S. District Judge Emily Marks denied Woods’ request for a stay of execution. Woods, 44, is scheduled to die by lethal injection at Holman Correctional Facility at 6 p.m. on Thursday.
In a press release issued today, advocates for Woods said there was no evidence of a plan to lure the officers into a trap and that Spencer acted alone. They said Woods had incompetent legal representation during the trial. They said Woods turned down the prosecutors offer of a plea deal that would have resulted in a sentence of 20 to 25 years because he was not made aware that he could be sentenced to death even though he did not fire the shots.
Pamela Woods repeated some of those points during her remarks at the Capitol.
“I stand here speaking on his behalf to say that what happened to those officers is not his fault,” she said. “And that’s not something he’d wish on them. It’s not something he planned. It’s not something he schemed. He didn’t lure anybody.”
Two of the eight men who have had convictions overturned after serving time on Alabama’s death row also came to the Capitol today to urge the governor to halt the execution. Garry Drinkard and Randal Padgett said they did not know Woods but had read about his case.
“I’m not here so much to get into Mr. Woods’ case, but I’m here to protest the state-sanctioned killing of human life,” Padgett said. “And I would like to quote Gov. Ivey’s own words back when she signed the abortion ban last year – the human life protection act. As she was signing it, she said ‘Alabamians have a deeply held belief that every life is precious and that every life is a sacred gift from God.’ Well, I’m here to say that Mr. Woods’ life is precious. And I want her to stand up to her words and protect that life.”
“With the trial messed up the way it was, with the ineffective assistance of counsel, he should get some type of hearing, he should get a commutation at the least, in my opinion,” Drinkard said.
The letter delivered to the governor’s office today says the deaths of the officers “was an unimaginable, senseless tragedy. But Nathaniel did not do it. There are so many flaws and questions with his trial that we cannot move forward with executing him.”
The son of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. also released an open letter to Ivey, asking her to intervene in the case.