Judge rules Alabama death penalty mechanism unconstitutional

An Alabama judge threw out the state’s system for imposing the death penalty the same day Florida lawmakers passed a bill to revamp a similar sentencing mechanism.

Jefferson County Circuit Judge Tracie Todd sided Thursday with defense attorneys who had cited a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that Florida’s law was unconstitutional.

Juries recommend sentences in Alabama and Florida death penalty cases, but judges have the final decision. The Florida Legislature on Thursday passed a bill that would overhaul that state’s law.

Prosecutors argued Alabama’s law was different in key aspects, but Todd disagreed.

Todd’s decision bars prosecutors from seeking the death penalty against four men charged in three slayings.

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange says his office is reviewing Todd’s order and expects to file an appeal.

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