Assistant AG discusses death penalty appeals process

Published 6:23 pm Friday, February 1, 2013

Assistant Attorney General Beth Hughes, wife of Clanton Lions Club member, the Rev. Tony Hughes, talks to the club at its lunch meeting Friday.

Assistant Attorney General Beth Hughes spoke to the Clanton Lions Club on Friday about Alabama’s current death penalty law and appeals process.

Hughes talked about what makes a crime a capital crime and said Alabama transitioned from electrocution to lethal injection in 2002 as its primary method of execution in death penalty cases to avoid potential litigation from the United States Supreme Court.

According to Hughes, capital murder must be coupled with kidnapping, rape, robbery or other factors to merit a death sentence.

“In Alabama, we have 18 of those crimes,” Hughes said.

Alabama currently has 192 people on death row, and 15 years and five months is the average time spent on death row.

If convicted of a capital crime in Alabama, a person’s two possible punishments are death or life in prison without parole.

“If you’re under 18, you cannot be executed,” Hughes said.

Hughes explained the death penalty appeals process in Alabama as it appears in a guide from the state’s Office of the Attorney General.

The death penalty process is comprised of Phase 1, the trial phase; Phase 2, the capital appeal process; and Phase 3, clemency or execution.

The capital appeal process consists of Tier 1, the direct appeal; Tier 2, the state post-conviction appeal; and Tier 3, federal habeas corpus.

Hughes said the process often stalls in the state post-conviction appeal in which a defendant sentenced to death is entitled to file a state post-conviction, or “Rule 32,” appeal.

Hughes is the wife of Lions Club member, the Rev. Tony Hughes.