In just one week, the state of Alabama is set to execute a Black man convicted of gunning down three police officers without firing a single shot. And Nathaniel Woods’ attorneys now claim that the case was tainted by police misconduct and false testimony.
Woods was convicted in the deaths of Birmingham Police Officers Carlos Owen, Harley A. Chisolm III and Charles R. Bennet in 2005. He is scheduled to be the first person Alabama executes in 2020. Issues with his initial trial as well as his first two appeal attempts have made it all but certain that he will be executed on March 5.
In June 2004, officers Owen, Chisolm and Bennett were shot dead with a semi-automatic at a drug house. Bennet was discovered with a bullet wound to the face near the front door. The other two officers, meanwhile, lay dead on the kitchen floor.
A surviving officer, named Michael Collins, alerted the Birmingham Police Department of the shooting and identified drug dealers Kerry Spencer and Woods as the killers. Police claimed that the two men worked together, with Spencer acting as the shooter.
Despite not shooting the officers himself, Woods was charged as an accomplice, a capital offense in Alabama, punishable by death, The Appeal reported. At his 2005 trial, Jefferson County prosecutors claimed that Woods plotted the deaths and lured the officers to their execution.
Witnesses testified that Woods spoke of his hatred of police and a so-called handwriting expert claimed Woods wrote down the lyrics of a Dr. Dre song that called police “pigs”. Prosecutors also called on the victims’ widows, who expressed their support for the death penalty.
However, at his own trial, Spencer told jurors that the officers had harassed residents that day, and were attacking Woods when he shot at them. Court documents revealed Chisholm and Owen had a history of collecting bribes from drug dealers. Spencer also said he feared for his and Woods’ life.
“We were scared as s—t,” Spencer told The Appeal about the incident. “It was a f—ked up situation. It was the scariest moment of my life. We could’ve died.”
The jury ultimately found Woods guilty of capital murder and recommended the death sentence in a 10-2 vote.
Attempts to Appeal
Since Woods’ conviction, his attorneys have collected evidence that allegedly proves that neither Woods nor his friend planned to kill the officers. The attorneys allege key witnesses gave false testimonies or refused to testify due to undisclosed deals with law enforcement. They also charge Woods had incompetent counsel.
Alabama courts, unfortunately, have decided against hearing this evidence. According to The Appeal, two court-appointed appellate attorneys made key errors when bringing up issues and missed deadlines to file appeals. These mistakes severely diminished Woods’ odds of a successful appeal.
J.D. Lloyd, Woods’ final appellate attorney, told The Appeal that Attorney General Steve Marshall has used these mistakes to block the consideration of the appeal of his sentence.
“It’s a travesty,” Lloyd said. “His case has just been so mishandled and it’s just a shame that we’re at the point of executing a man who was not the triggerman, whose case has so many issues that no court has considered.”
What Can Be Done?
There’s a change.org petition to convince Alabama Governor Kay Ivey to grant Woods clemency or a sentence commutation. The petition, which has been open to signatures for a month, has more than 53,000 co-signers at the time of publishing. You can sign your support for the petition here.
The petition encourages co-signers to share the petition on all social media platforms. “Without sharing, we simply cannot get the exposure needed to stop this execution,” the petition states.
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About the Author
Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Europe, Asia, Australia and the Americas.