Nathaniel Woods: Justice or Murder?

Did Alabama serve justice or execute an innocent man?

Nathaniel Woods: Justice or Murder?

Nathaniel Woods, 43, was convicted in 2004, along with Kerry Spencer, for the shootings of three Birmingham police officers and an injured officer. On March 6, Woods was pronounced dead at 9:01 p.m. by lethal injection, as the Alabama Department of Corrections said. According to The Associated Press, he had no last words but had his hands in a sign of his Islamic faith.

The Governor of Alabama, Kay Ivey, declined to halt the execution and the Supreme Court also denied a last-minute stay after declaring a temporary halt minutes before Woods was scheduled to die. She expressed that the decision was not easy but this case has went on for over 16 years and nine court challenges. Ivey stated that jurors felt “he was a fully engaged participant.” A jury voted 10-2 in favor of the death penalty.

“There is no evidence, and no argument has been made, that Nathaniel Woods tried to stop the gunman from committing these heinous crimes. In fact, he later bragged about his participation in these horrific murders,” said in a statement made by Ivey.

However, 10 minutes before Woods’ execution, the sister of one of the slain cops called an Alabama official to plea that “He (Woods) didn’t kill my brother, and he didn’t kill the other officers, may they rest in peace.”

The video below shows the family of Nathaniel Woods’ speak before his execution.

Kerry Spencer, the other man convicted of the killings, said Woods was innocent. Spencer stated in a phone interview that he shot the three officers alone in 2004 and that Woods was not involved. According to CNN, “Spencer said that Woods ran when the gunfire erupted.”

“Nate is absolutely innocent. That man didn’t know I was going to shoot anybody just like I didn’t know I was going to shoot anybody that day, period” said Spencer.

If Kerry Spencer, the actual suspect who claimed to kill the officers alone, stated that Woods was innocent, then why did Woods get executed instead of him? Acknowledging the fact that under Alabama law, those involved in the murder of police officers are just as guilty as the murderer, then why didn’t the actual murderer get equal punishment?

This is a case of injustice and murder.

Prosecutors claimed during the 2005 trial that even though Woods did not pull the trigger, he “helped set up the ambush” for Kerry Spencer, the man who did kill the officers. Advocates for Woods said there was no evidence of their claims of Woods setting a trap and instead, Spencer acted alone. Despite both Woods and Spencer admitting to selling drugs, Spencer stands by his claim that Woods is “100% innocent. I know this to be a fact because I’m the person that shot and killed all three officers.”

Many famous figures advocated for Woods such as MLK’s son, Martin Luther King III, Kim Kardashian, and Bart Starr Jr., the son of the late NFL Hall of Fame quarterback.

“Simply being at the wrong place where someone else shows up and then starts firing at police officers is not a reason to assign culpability to someone else”

Woods’ attorneys stated that he was represented by a court-appointed lawyer with no experience in capital cases, conducted a poor investigation, and failed to advise him properly about taking a plea deal in 2005.

Two weeks after the execution, the state of Alabama performed an autopsy on his body, completely against the beliefs of the Islamic faith of Woods. Despite the family’s pleas to stop it, Alabama completely dismissed them.

“He was mistreated in every way possible,” said Imam Yusef Maisonet, Woods’s spiritual adviser.

On Woods’s behalf, Maisonet wrote a letter to Holman Correctional Facility to request that the state not perform an autopsy because it was against Woods’s religious beliefs. The letter was given to warden Cynthia Stewart’s secretary a few days before the execution but he never was given a response.

The overall case of Nathaniel Woods was mistreated with police misconduct and instead of justice, served a wrongful execution. As tragic as the lives lost were, Woods was wrongfully accused and executed. However, his execution doesn’t end the controversy. This is just the start of exposing police misconduct and the unjust court system that has taken an innocent life.