The state of Alabama executed Nathaniel Woods on Thursday night over the 2004 murders of three police officers.
Woods, 43, was pronounced dead at 9:01 p.m CST, according to the state's corrections department. His life was taken by lethal injection. The U.S. Supreme Court issued a temporary stay on his execution but decided to ultimately lift it on Thursday.
The murders of the three Birmingham officers occurred after they visited an alleged drug house in the city to arrest Woods and a man named Kerry Spencer. Prosecutors acknowledged that it was Spencer and not Woods who was the gunman in the killings. Although he didn't kill the officers, Woods was convicted in 2005 as an accomplice and sentenced to death by a judge despite two jurors being opposed to the penalty. Alabama is the only state that allows executions without a unanimous decision from jurors.
"Nate is absolutely innocent," Spencer said in a phone interview with CNN. "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." Spencer, who is currently on death row in Alabama, went on to describe his version of the night's events. "When I looked to the side, there was two police officers trying to train their guns on me so I opened fire with the f***ing rifle," he said. "I wasn't trying to get shot, period. I got a rifle in my hand. They're going to shoot me."
Spencer continued, "When I opened fire, Nate jumped as if he was getting shot, you understand? And once he seen he wasn't getting shot, when I kept firing, that n**ga took off."
A campaign that called into question Woods' guilt pleaded for him not to be executed. Martin Luther King III, one of the activist that was fighting on behalf of Woods and son of the late civil rights leader, called the killing "reprehensible" and "a mockery of justice."
In the case of Nathaniel Woods, the actions of the U.S. Supreme Court and the Governor of the State of Alabama are reprehensible, and have potentially contributed to an irreversible injustice. It makes a mockery of justice and constitutional guarantees to a fair trial.— Martin Luther King III (@OfficialMLK3) March 6, 2020
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall released a message justifying the killing of Woods after his death was announced.