Bohannon had argued that his death sentence should be vacated because of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in January that Florida’s system of imposing death sentences is unconstitutional because it allowed judges, rather than juries, to make that call.
While the systems are not exactly the same, a judge in Alabama had ruled earlier this year against Alabama’s death-sentencing structure because judges can override jury recommendations there. Bohannon argued that because a judge can determine an aggravating factor worthy of a death sentence apart from the jury, “the resulting death sentence is unconstitutional.”
In its ruling Friday, the Alabama Supreme Court disagreed and said it concluded “that Alabama’s capital-sentencing scheme is consistent with the Sixth Amendment.”
This is the second big news to emerge Friday involving the Alabama Supreme Court. Earlier in the day, Roy S. Moore, the court’s chief justice, was suspended from the bench and pulled from office by a judiciary court for his defiance over same-sex marriage.
Associate Justice Lyn Stuart wrote the opinion upholding Alabama’s death-penalty system, and six of the seven remaining justices concurred. The eighth concurred in the result.
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, who has previously insisted that the state’s death-penalty system remained intact and unaffected by the Florida ruling, praised the decision.
“Today’s ruling is an important victory for victims and for criminal justice,” Strange said in a statement. “The Hurst ruling has no bearing whatsoever on the constitutionality of Alabama’s death penalty, which has been upheld numerous times.”
Alabama is one of just five states to carry out an execution this year, along with Texas, Florida, Missouri and Georgia. It has two executions scheduled for later this year.