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How Nathaniel Woods’ Execution Revives Topic of Death Penalty and American Injustice

Capital injustice has been a devastating conversation in America since Nathaniel Woods’ execution by lethal injection on Thursday, March 5th. Although he was not responsible for the murder of three cops by gunfire in 2004, he faced the consequences of being in proximity to the man who admitted to doing so, which made him culpable in the eyes of prosecutors.

His shattering and unjust death has revived a controversial topic that has been researched endlessly and argued by many: capital punishment. 

In the coming days of his execution, several known civil rights activists and celebrities openly voiced their disapproval of his death and scrutiny of the death penalty. The late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s son, Martin Luther King, III sent a letter to Governor Kay Ivey of Alabama “pleading with you not to execute Nathaniel Woods.”

His family additionally asked for a reprieve in light of Kerry Spencer, the co-defendant of Woods, admitting to the killings occurring on his behalf. Shaun King and Kim Kardashian are among others who attested to the wrongness in his death, mourning on social media and radio talk shows. 

Woods himself had no idea his initial arrest would come this far ― in 2005, he turned down a plea deal because he had no idea that the execution would be carried out granted that he was not the killer in this scenario. His attorneys convinced him that he could not be convicted because the state did not have enough evidence to prove that he was the one to kill those officers.

Despite it being evident that Woods was not the gunman, even Ivey believed that the correct decision was made, stating that she “firmly believe[s] in the rule of law and that justice must be served.” 

Alabama is one of 29 states that still retain the death penalty, and Woods’ marked its 67th execution. His death may be the poster-child of a movement that will contribute to the repeal of the death penalty, which is not a perfect nor civil system in any regard.

According to a 2014 study, 1 in every 25 is sentenced to death for a crime they did not commit. This is a terrifying statistic ― death is permanent, and there are too many fallacies incorporated into the justice system to inflict it upon anyone.

Minority cases are especially prone to be primed with injustice, with black and Latino defendants being disproportionately executed. This reiterates what has been the predominant cry of minorities across the U.S. ― or criminal system is antiquated and inadequate. Yet again it has failed another citizen it was deemed to protect. 

Although many fought hard for Woods to be saved from his wrongful fate, he was lost to the hands of those who seem to harbor corruption over justice, who have failed to their duty and reframe his life.

Michael Collins, a fourth officer who survived the 2004 shooting, even stated that he knew Woods did not fire those shots on that night. According to Spencer, “Nate jumped as if he was getting shot… when I kept firing, that n***a took off.” These words came to no avail as Woods’ case was riddled with improper advisement and a disorderly investigation. The ending of his life is the embodiment of everything that is wrong with America and the systems it upholds. 

As we continue with challenges to capital punishment, hopefully, we remember the fate of Nathaniel Woods, a man who left the Earth too soon because a system he was condemned to adhere to failed him. We, as a whole, have one sole purpose: protect the innocent.

As stated by Martin Luther King III, this outcome gave birth to an “irreversible injustice.” The final question for such a heartbreaking ending is where do we, as a nation, possibly go from here.

Featured Image via Alabama Department of Corrections 

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Sade Collier
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Sade is an eighteen-year-old residing in a small town in Georgia who is in love with everything the world has to offer.

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