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Tesmer: Bill would deny families closure

By Ryan Wilkes
Special to the Advocate

Sen. Hank Sanders’ bill to place a three-year moratorium on the death penalty has Butler County District Attorney Charlotte Tesmer concerned.

“If he puts a moratorium on it for three years, it does affect me,” Tesmer said. “That would mean that capital cases would put your victims at a disadvantage because they can’t get closure in their cases.”

She said the death penalty couldn’t be imposed and the victim’s family would have to wait three years until something could be done for the case.

Sanders, D-Selma, represents Butler County. His moratorium bill is SB153.

“There is one bill that he has right now where the jury makes a recommendation with either life without parole or capital punishment,” Tesmer said. Alabama is one of three states that allow judges to override a jury’s sentencing recommendations.

Sanders could not be reached for comment

Butler County Sheriff Kenny Harden said Butler County is one of the few counties in Alabama not to have an inmate on death row.

“We get very few homicides,” Harden said. “We’ve had one homicide last year, and I say over the nine years I have been sheriff, there have been no more than 10.”

Harden said he would not expect Sanders’ bill to have much effect in Butler County.

“In reality in capital cases, it usually takes three years to come up,” Harden said. “I really don’t think it would have an effect on either of us in the court system or correctional facility.”

Harden said that places like Montgomery County would receive a greater impact from the bill.

Sanders’ bill is currently pending committee action in the Senate.

Alabama has 185 inmates on death row with the average age of 30, according to the Alabama Department of Corrections. Alabama’s death row facilities are Holman Prison in Atmore, William E. Donaldson Prison near Birmingham and Tutwiler Prison for women in Wetumpka.

Troy University journalism student Ryan Wilkes of Luverne wrote this story as part of a project partly funded by the Alabama Press Association Journalism Foundation.