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Alabama Executes Man Convicted As Accomplice In Slaying Of Police Officers

This undated photo from the Alabama Department of Corrections shows Nathaniel Woods. Woods was executed late Thursday in Alabama.
This undated photo from the Alabama Department of Corrections shows Nathaniel Woods. Woods was executed late Thursday in Alabama.

Nathaniel Woods, who was convicted in the 2004 killings of three Birmingham, Ala., police officers, was put to death using a lethal cocktail of drugs late Thursday after the U.S. Supreme Court denied him reprieve.

Woods, 43, reportedly had no last words as the drugs flowed into his body. He was pronounced dead at 9:01 p.m. CST.

The three officers, Harley A. Chisholm III, Carlos "Curly" Owen and Charles R. Bennett, were killed in a hail of bullets as they sought to arrest Woods and another man, Kerry Spencer, at a suspected drug house in Birmingham.

Although prosecutors said Spencer was the gunman, Woods was convicted as an accomplice on capital murder charges.

Immediately after Woods' death, Gov. Kay Ivey released a statement saying no argument was made during his trial that he had "tried to stop the gunman from committing these heinous acts."

"A jury of Mr. Woods' peers convicted him of four counts of capital murder. In the past 15 years, his conviction has been reviewed at least nine times, and no court has found any reason to overturn the jury's decision," Ivey said.

The case garnered national attention, and advocates for Woods, including Martin Luther King III, the son of the late civil rights leader, fought to block the execution, arguing that Spencer was solely responsible for the slayings.

In a letter to Ivey, King said Woods' case "appears to have been strongly mishandled by the courts" and could result in "an irreversible injustice."

"Are you willing to allow a potentially innocent man to be executed?" he asked the governor.

Hours before the lethal injection, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a temporary stay to consider final appeals in the case but ultimately denied the inmate's petitions.

In a letter late Thursday to Woods' attorney, Lauren Faraino, before the execution was carried out, the governor's general counsel, William G. Parker Jr., said Ivey did not "intend to exercise her powers of commutation or reprieve in this case."

Alabama ranks seventh among states with the most executions since 1976, having put to death 67 inmates in that period. Texas tops the list with 566 executions, followed by Virginia with 113.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.