He Never Touched the Murder Weapon. Alabama Sentenced Him to Die.

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Nathaniel Woods was unarmed erstwhile 3 Birmingham constabulary officers were fatally changeable by idiosyncratic other successful 2004. But Woods, a Black man, was convicted of superior execution for his relation successful the deaths of the 3 achromatic officers.


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A New York Times documentary examines the lawsuit of Nathaniel Woods, who was sentenced to decease for his relation successful the murders of 3 Birmingham constabulary officers fatally changeable by idiosyncratic else.CreditCredit...The New York Times Presents

Dec. 5, 2021, 3:00 a.m. ET

BIRMINGHAM — He cradled his babe grandchild for the archetypal and last time. He picked astatine immoderate food. He posed for household photographs that captured smiles arsenic strained arsenic the conversation. Then idiosyncratic successful complaint said it was time.

The halfway of attention, Nathaniel Woods, assured his heavy-hearted begetter that everything would beryllium each right. Dad, I emotion you, helium said. But erstwhile y’all locomotion retired this gross today, I’m gonna locomotion retired with y’all, but y’all aren’t going to cognize it.

It was precocious day connected March 5, 2020, the overcast time chosen by the State of Alabama to beryllium Mr. Woods’s last. He had been convicted 15 years earlier successful transportation with the shooting deaths of 3 Birmingham constabulary officers — and ever since had been rechristened Cop Killer Nathaniel Woods.

But Mr. Woods ne'er killed anyone. He was unarmed erstwhile the officers were gunned down portion rushing into a cramped cause location to execute a warrant for his apprehension connected a misdemeanor.

Alabama — 1 of 26 states wherever an accomplice tin beryllium sentenced to death, according to the American Civil Liberties Union — argued that Mr. Woods had intentionally lured the officers to their deaths. It did not person to beryllium that helium really killed anyone successful seeking his condemnation for superior murder.


Nathaniel Woods and his begetter  the time  of his scheduled execution. 
Credit...Pamela Woods

The Death Penalty Information Center estimates that of the country’s 1,458 executions betwixt 1985 and 2018, 11 progressive cases successful which the suspect neither arranged nor committed murder. Even rarer are cases successful which the idiosyncratic was unarmed and uninvolved successful a convulsive act, specified arsenic a robbery — cases similar that of Mr. Woods, whose defenders accidental helium had nary foreknowledge of the unit to unfold and fled successful panic arsenic the bullets flew.

“Nathaniel Woods is 100% innocent,” different death-row inmate, Kerry Spencer, wrote successful a missive successful enactment of Mr. Woods. “I cognize this to beryllium a information due to the fact that I’m the antheral that changeable and killed each 3 of the officers.”

Mr. Woods — whose lawsuit is the taxable of a caller documentary by The New York Times, “To Live and Die successful Alabama” — was a Black antheral surviving successful the Black-majority metropolis of Birmingham. But lone 2 of the twelve jurors proceeding his lawsuit were Black. The justice and the 2 prosecutors were white, arsenic were the 3 victims.

He was besides a Black antheral surviving successful Alabama, a authorities with a past of radical injustice and a afloat clasp of superior punishment. It has the country’s highest fig of death-row inmates per capita and is the lone authorities that does not necessitate assemblage unanimity successful recommending death.

After little deliberations, the assemblage had voted, 10 to 2: Death.

In the annals of superior punishment, Mr. Woods is not the astir sympathetic figure: a cause trader whose evasive actions led to 3 deaths; who taunted 1 of the widows successful a letter; who refused to amusement compassion, adjacent astatine his sentencing. Still, conscionable arsenic jurors struggled with speechmaking Mr. Woods’s impassive facial expression, truthful excessively does the instrumentality conflict with measures of punishment. How could it beryllium that the equipped antheral who killed 3 officers continues to live, portion the unarmed antheral who fled dies?

“The calamity is that radical similar Nathaniel Woods go victims of our indifference to injustice,” said Bryan Stevenson, the enforcement manager of the Equal Justice Initiative, a quality rights enactment based successful Alabama. He added, “Being successful the incorrect spot astatine the incorrect clip doesn’t marque you idiosyncratic who is evil.”

Time, said idiosyncratic successful charge.

Dark-bearded but inactive boyish, his flimsy framework dressed successful his death-row whites, the condemned antheral looked backmost astatine his family. Then helium disappeared down a doorway held unfastened conscionable for him.

Heavenly Woods, 1 of his sisters, said she can’t get that past look retired of her mind. “It’s conscionable stuck,” she said. “It’s just, you know, just: What was helium thinking?”

On a blistery day getting hotter by the second, each that separated the hostility betwixt Nathaniel Woods, cause dealer, and Carlos Owen, constabulary officer, was a backmost surface door.

Their fraught standoff connected June 17, 2004, was unfolding astatine a one-story, bare-bones flat successful the city’s Ensley section. The surrounding bare tons and vacant storefronts told the acquainted American communicative of alloy and prosperity moving retired and drugs and transgression moving in.

Mr. Woods was a clerk successful a 24-hour cause cognition tally by his relative Tyran Cooper, who went by Bubba. His job: Collect the wealth and manus implicit the drugs.

“A bully dude,” Mr. Cooper said.

Mr. Woods spent his aboriginal puerility successful Tuscaloosa, nursing stray animals and teasing his younger sisters, Heavenly and Pamela, who inactive telephone him by his nickname Quail. But they accidental the familial mirth each but ended erstwhile their parents divided up, partially due to the fact that their parent utilized beatings to support them successful line.

“I told the constabulary if I can’t whoop their ass, past they request to instrumentality them to jailhouse oregon instrumentality me, due to the fact that ain’t nary kid going to tally my location erstwhile I’m getting up and going to enactment 2 jobs taking attraction of them,” their mother, besides named Pamela Woods, said. “And each I get is, ‘You mean, you hateful, you maltreatment us.’


Credit...Pamela Woods

“No, I whipped them,” she added. “If I abused them, they would person had marks.”

Mr. Woods near schoolhouse aft the sixth people and yet moved to Birmingham to unrecorded with his father, Nathaniel Woods Sr. He developed a knack for electronics, capable to revive a dormant television, arsenic good arsenic a knack for trouble, with arrests for burglary, reckless driving and nationalist drinking.

He got a occupation driving a forklift astatine a Piggly Wiggly warehouse, wherever his begetter was a foreman, but it didn’t stick. Now helium was 28, with 3 young children and a occupation selling drugs successful an cognition taking successful $3,000 a day.

His enactment spouse and person Kerry Spencer, 23, had followed a akin path. He, too, had near school, had worked astatine the Piggly Wiggly warehouse and had young children. But helium was besides snorting $350 worthy of cocaine a day, and was usually armed.

This wasn’t warehouse work, aft all. Just 2 months earlier, successful April 2004, their boss, Mr. Cooper, had helped acceptable a Birmingham country aglow with gunfire during a quality that near 2 radical wounded. He was arrested a abbreviated portion aboriginal successful his bullet-riddled achromatic Buick.

For each the drugs and bullets, beingness astatine the 18th Street flat passed without constabulary interruption, Mr. Spencer would aboriginal testify. “Everyone astir america was getting busted, but we ne'er got touched,” helium would say.

Except the constabulary were present astatine the backmost door.

Officer Carlos Owen, 58, was a Birmingham Police Department fixture assigned to patrol the Ensley streets helium knew truthful well. Though helium was a graying gramps with plans to discontinue successful 2 years, everyone called him by a nickname based connected an aged hairstyle: Curly.

In his 26 years connected the job, helium had been changeable astatine 3 times, bitten by a canine erstwhile and progressive successful excessively galore chases to remember. He had led the constabulary national and been repeatedly honored for his constabulary work, including arsenic Officer of the Year successful 2002.

“He epitomized the assemblage policing idea,” Bill Lowe, an Ensley concern owner, would aboriginal archer The Birmingham News. He added: “He knew wherever the bully guys were and wherever the atrocious guys were.”

Others praised Officer Owen arsenic strict but fair.

“He was bully to me,” said Lou Lou Chatman, 60, a self-described erstwhile cause dealer. “A mates of times helium could person took maine to jail. And adjacent if helium had to instrumentality you to jail, helium would propulsion implicit and fto you get escaped of everything connected you.”

Looming beside Officer Owen astatine the backmost doorway was Officer Harley Chisholm III, a fewer days abbreviated of his 41st birthday. His on-the-job enthusiasm, coupled with his six-foot-four framework and wraparound sunglasses, had earned the six-year constabulary seasoned and erstwhile Marine a nickname of his own: RoboCop.


Credit...Matt Kay and Victor Tadashi Suarez

“He knew erstwhile to constabulary from the publication and constabulary from his heart,” 1 of his sisters, Starr Chisholm Sidelinker, wrote to The New York Times. “He chose to enactment successful 1 of the bad-ass areas to assistance marque it a amended spot for the community.”

Officer Chisholm had been some honored and disciplined for his constabulary work. In 2002, a twelvemonth aft being named the West Precinct’s serviceman of the year, helium was suspended aft admitting to opening a woman’s car trunk, dousing immoderate babe apparel with brew from bottles helium had broken, and destroying a tv acceptable successful the conveyance with a knife.

Curly and RoboCop, the patrolling guardians of Ensley. Some successful the vicinity respected them, immoderate feared them, and immoderate — including Mr. Woods’s leader and cousin, Bubba Cooper — considered them corrupt.

In a 2012 affidavit, and again successful an interrogation this summertime with The Times, Mr. Cooper claimed to person paid extortion wealth to Officers Owen and Chisholm for years — with play payoffs of arsenic overmuch arsenic $1,000 usually made astatine a section steakhouse called Niki’s West. In return, helium said, they suppressed section contention and tipped him disconnected to the buy-and-bust operations of narcotics officers.

“That’s however I was capable to run truthful long,” helium told The Times.

But Mr. Cooper said that aft helium was arrested connected attempted execution charges — successful transportation with that shooting spree successful April 2004 — the 2 officers raised their terms to $3,000 a week. At that point, helium said, helium stopped paying them for protection.

Others who lived successful Ensley, including immoderate progressive successful the cause commercialized astatine the time, told akin stories astir the 2 officers. But neither antheral was ever formally accused of corruption, according to Annetta Nunn, the constabulary main astatine the time.

“Where is the proof?” she asked.

Mr. Owen’s daughter, Andrea Elders, dismissed the allegations against her begetter — who, she said, utilized to present bicycles to disadvantaged children successful Ensley — arsenic untruths concocted aft his decease by section criminals.

“‘Oh, helium was a crooked cop,’” Ms. Elders said with derision. “No, helium wasn’t. Twenty-six years connected the constabulary force, helium was not a crooked cop. You would deliberation if helium was, it would person travel out.”

The screen-door standoff was the culmination of escalating tensions that time astatine the 18th Street apartment. There had already been 1 erstwhile encounter, if not two.


Credit...Haraz Ghanbari/Associated Press

Mr. Spencer and Mr. Woods aboriginal claimed that Officer Owen archetypal appeared astatine the flat astir dawn, pulling up successful his motortruck connected his mode to the West Precinct gathering a half-mile away. Police records bespeak that helium reported to enactment astatine 6:30 that morning.

They said that helium kicked astatine the door, demanding to speech to Bubba, earlier yet leaving.

But this relationship could not beryllium verified, and different witnesser aboriginal testified that neither Mr. Woods nor Mr. Spencer was astatine the flat aboriginal that morning, though she said idiosyncratic aboriginal told her that Officer Owen had so stopped by.

There is nary question that Officers Owen and Chisholm arrived astatine the flat astir 10:30 that greeting — to cheque connected stolen cars, they said — and that they got into a heated statement with Mr. Woods and Mr. Spencer.

The 2 sides swapped obscenities and threats that centered connected hiding down a badge and hiding down a door. “It wasn’t a affable conversation,” Mr. Spencer aboriginal testified.

At immoderate point, Officer Owen concisely removed his badge. At immoderate point, Mr. Woods gave his sanction because, his defenders say, helium believed helium had done thing wrong.

Before the officers near the scene, they utilized the patrol-car machine of Officer Michael Collins, who had arrived successful the midst of the confrontation, to tally Mr. Woods’s sanction done transgression databases. The cause dealers, meanwhile, began hiding their paraphernalia — successful anticipation.

Mr. Spencer said that helium past took a pill, drank a Bud Lite and went to sleep. Beside him: a semiautomatic firearm helium had precocious acquired successful speech for $35, a handgun and a half-gram of cocaine.

Less than 3 hours later, the constabulary received confirmation by telephone that Mr. Woods was wanted successful adjacent Fairfield connected a misdemeanor battle complaint related to a four-month-old home disturbance - eliciting a “Woohoo” from Officer Chisholm. This time, 4 constabulary officers pulled up to the 18th Street apartment: Mr. Owen, Mr. Chisholm, Mr. Collins and Charles Robert Bennett.


Now Officer Owen was astatine the backmost doorway again, telling Mr. Woods done the surface that determination was an outstanding warrant for his apprehension and to travel outside. Mr. Woods profanely refused.

When Officer Chisholm was summoned from the beforehand gait to corroborate the warrant’s existence, Officer Collins aboriginal said, Mr. Woods cursed again and ran deeper into the tiny apartment, wherever the covered windows formed the drug-house clutter successful eternal dusk. Officer Chisholm rushed successful aft him, followed by Officers Owen and Collins.

Some of what happened adjacent is successful dispute: whether the constabulary utilized capsicum spray; whether the constabulary drew their guns. But determination is nary uncertainty of the abrupt detonation of unit that followed, elaborate by Mr. Spencer successful a cellphone video recorded from decease enactment past year.

He said that helium woke up to commotion, looked retired a model to spot a constabulary car and past saw Mr. Woods stumbling retired of the kitchen, holding his look arsenic if successful symptom — possibly from capsicum spray. Then, seeing movement, helium opened occurrence with his semiautomatic, sidesplitting Officers Chisholm and Owen. One slug nicked Officer Collins arsenic helium fled retired the backmost door.

“I was truthful shocked,” Mr. Woods aboriginal told the police. “And I was hollering, telling him to stop, stop, stop.”

Then Officer Bennett — 33 and married, with a 4-year-old girl — came done the beforehand doorway and, Mr. Spencer said, “I deed him similar 3 times.”

Amid the gunfire, Mr. Woods scrambled retired the bath model and started to flee, passing Officer Bennett lying connected the ground. “He said, ‘Uh, I been hit,’” Mr. Woods told the police. But helium kept running.

Mr. Spencer said helium went to the backmost doorway and sprayed a patrol car with bullets to scare disconnected Officer Collins. As helium ran retired the beforehand door, helium sensed that the gravely wounded Officer Bennett was trying to drawback his leg. He changeable him successful the head.

An anxious but determined manhunt followed, with crouched officers searching alleys and houses with guns drawn. Mr. Woods watched the enactment portion sitting connected a structure diagonally crossed from the apartment, arsenic if the play had thing to bash with him. He surrendered erstwhile identified, convinced that helium would beryllium good due to the fact that helium hadn’t killed anyone.

“I won’t sprout nary constabulary officer,” helium would accidental portion being interrogated aboriginal that day. “Ain’t bash thing similar that. That ain’t, that ain’t me.”


Credit...Bernard Troncale/Birmingham News, via Associated Press

A memorial plaque hangs wrong the Birmingham Police Department’s West Precinct gathering successful Ensley. It depicts successful bas-relief the likeness of 3 constabulary officers killed successful the enactment of duty. Carlos Owen, grandfather. Harley Chisholm III, erstwhile Marine. Robert Bennett, young father.

Whenever their erstwhile constabulary chief, Annetta Nunn, sees the memorial, she is instantly returned to that blistery day of June 17, 2004. To that 18th Street apartment.

“Bennett was the youngest,” Ms. Nunn said. “And, you know, looking successful his eyes conscionable reminds maine of that day, due to the fact that his eyes were partially opened erstwhile I saw him. It conscionable brings that representation back, seeing his eyes.”

The deaths staggered Alabama. A twelvemonth later, it was clip to prosecute the 2 men charged with causing those deaths.

The gunman, Kerry Spencer, was convicted first. In presenting a lawsuit of self-defense, his lawyer, Michael Blalock, seemingly raised capable uncertainty astir what the constabulary were doing astatine the flat that the assemblage recommended beingness without parole, alternatively than the decease penalty.


Credit...Steve Barnett/Birmingham News, via Associated Press

“Something’s going connected that shouldn’t beryllium going on, bottommost line,” Mr. Blalock said successful an interview. “And I deliberation the jurors picked up connected it.”

But Alabama astatine that clip allowed judges to overrule assemblage recommendations — which Judge Tommy Nail of the Jefferson County Circuit Court did by sentencing Mr. Spencer to death. “May God person mercy connected your soul,” the justice said.

A period later, successful October 2005, Mr. Woods stood proceedings connected the aforesaid superior execution charges for which Mr. Spencer had conscionable been convicted.

“Most radical deliberation that you tin lone get the decease punishment for murders that you are liable for, successful the consciousness that you committed the sidesplitting oregon you paid idiosyncratic to perpetrate the killing,” said Robert Dunham, the enforcement manager of the Death Penalty Information Center. But helium said that the Supreme Court permitted a idiosyncratic to beryllium sentenced to decease “if you had ‘reckless disregard’ for the beingness of the unfortunate and were a large subordinate successful the underlying felony.”

Still, Mr. Woods’s lawyers had assurance successful their case. He ne'er fired a shot, helium didn’t person a weapon and adjacent the shooter, Mr. Spencer, said Mr. Woods had thing to bash with the killings.

True, Mr. Woods had talked trash astir the constabulary and had challenged Officer Owen to a fight. “Makes him blameworthy of having a large mouth,” his lawyer, Cynthia Umstead, told the jury. “Makes him blameworthy of stupidity for saying that. Does not marque him blameworthy of superior murder.”

But prosecutors challenged the premise that the shooting was unplanned by portraying Mr. Woods arsenic a police-hating transgression who had purposely led the officers to their deaths successful the choky apartment.

“They wanted them trapped,” a prosecutor, Mara Sirles, said. Mr. Woods “was the bait,” she said. “Kerry Spencer was the hook.”


Credit...Mark Almond/Birmingham News, via Associated Press

Three officers had died due to the fact that Mr. Woods refused to cooperate with a simple, morganatic apprehension warrant, Ms. Sirles said. And, nether the law, helium was conscionable arsenic culpable for their deaths arsenic the gunman.

Throughout, Mr. Woods’s level look invited interpretation. At slightest 1 achromatic juror believed that the suspect tried to intimidate the assemblage with his stare. But a Black alternate juror, Christina Bishop, saw lone defeat.

“His demeanor was conscionable arsenic superior arsenic the transgression that helium was being charged with,” said Ms. Bishop, a retired postal idiosyncratic who, arsenic an alternate juror, was excused earlier the votes connected condemnation and sentencing were taken.

Mr. Woods was convicted of each counts, aft which a mates of jurors questioned the rigor of his ineligible team’s defense. Then came the sentencing phase, with Mr. Woods’s unapologetic defiance formed successful a damning light.

Prosecutors presented a portion of insubstantial taken from his situation cell, connected which helium had rewritten the lyrics of a rap opus by Dr. Dre to see the line, “I driblet pigs similar Kerry Spencer.”

They presented a taunting missive that Mr. Woods had sent to Officer Chisholm’s widow soon aft his conviction. “This is simply a bully person of yours, yes Gurl it’s maine ‘Nathaniel Woods,’” helium began, earlier maintaining his innocence and saying that helium didn’t springiness a damn what she and different household members “think, privation oregon are seeking.”

Prosecutors besides summoned the widows of the officers to springiness dependable to their profound loss, and to asseverate that — arsenic Officer Owen’s wife, Bobbie, enactment it — Mr. Woods “needs the decease penalty.”

With the assemblage astir to determine whether helium should unrecorded oregon die, Mr. Woods took the stand. His lawyers had prepped him successful however champion to question the jury’s mercy, Ms. Umstead aboriginal said, “but erstwhile helium got connected the stand, it’s similar helium had ne'er heard a word.”

Asked by Ms. Umstead whether helium had thing to accidental to the families of the dormant officers, Mr. Woods responded:

“Well, I truly don’t person nary feeling astir the officers. I truly didn’t person thing to bash with it, but if they consciousness they request to instrumentality my blood, past fine. If they beryllium satisfied with that, past it’s fine.”

His effect flabbergasted 1 juror, Chris McAlpine, a loss-recovery specializer for an Alabama utility. “That’s each helium said,” helium recalled. “And I retrieve sitting determination going, ‘You’ve got to beryllium kidding me. That’s the champion you could travel up with, knowing what we’re fixing to decide?’”


Credit...Mark Almond/Birmingham News, via Associated Press

“If I could person conscionable shaken him and said, ‘You request to travel up with immoderate benignant of heartfelt thing to springiness us,’” Mr. McAlpine said. “Oh, I wanted to. If I could crook backmost clip and bash it, I would bash it.”

Another juror, Curtis Crane, a retiree, recalled feeling the afloat gravity of the jury’s responsibility. “You inquire yourself: What gives you the close to bash this?” helium said. “You’re conscionable a man; conscionable a person. What gives you the close to archer idiosyncratic other they’ve got to die?”

This cardinal question explains why, successful 2005, astir each authorities with a capital-punishment statute required a assemblage to beryllium unanimous successful recommending death. At the time, lone Florida, Delaware and Alabama allowed for a non-unanimous assemblage proposal of death; today, the signifier continues lone successful Alabama, wherever 10 of a twelve jurors is considered sufficient.

Deliberations were abbreviated — little than two-and-a-half hours — but intense. According to Mr. McAlpine, the ballot came down to 10 jurors successful favour of death, and 2 jurors, some Black women, opposed.

They didn’t connection an explanation, helium said. “It was: ‘I conscionable can’t bash it.’”

Mr. Woods spent the adjacent 15 years astatine the William C. Holman Correctional Facility, infamous for its unit and overcrowding. The authorities began shutting down astir of the situation successful aboriginal 2020, but it remains the spot wherever Alabama’s condemned unrecorded and die.

In those 15 years, 32 different men connected Alabama’s decease enactment were executed. One had killed a Montgomery constabulary officer. Another had robbed and killed a joined couple. Another had killed a household of four.

Each antheral was enactment to decease connected a Thursday, ever a Thursday. In the moments earlier his execution, those helium near down connected decease enactment would bang connected their doors, successful faint anticipation that helium mightiness perceive their clatter of solidarity.

All the while, Mr. Woods’s household fought to person his beingness spared. A succession of lawyers made a succession of hopeless arguments, including that his ineligible practice during the proceedings and the appeals process had been deficient oregon negligent. None recovered purchase.


Credit...Kimberly Chandler/Associated Press

As Mr. Woods swayed betwixt anticipation and despair, helium corresponded with household members. He wrote poetry. He converted to Islam. He waited.

Finally, connected Jan. 30, 2020, situation officials presented Mr. Woods with a one-page papers to sign. It stipulated that helium was to beryllium executed connected March 5 and advised him to supply interaction accusation for a ceremonial home.

No akin missive has been sent to Mr. Spencer. Unlike Mr. Woods, helium managed to widen his beingness by opting for decease by nitrogen hypoxia. The protocols for this untested gassing method person yet to beryllium finalized successful Alabama — the lone authorities to o.k. it — which means that the antheral who killed 3 constabulary officers would proceed to unrecorded portion his unarmed subordinate would die.

A period earlier Mr. Woods’s scheduled execution, 2 improbable advocates took up his case: Lauren Faraino, 30, a firm lawyer with nary acquisition successful superior execution cases, and her mother, Elaena Starr, 60, who had precocious ended her enactment of the decease punishment aft speechmaking the 2018 memoir of Anthony Ray Hinton, who spent 3 decades connected Alabama’s decease enactment earlier being exonerated.

Turning Ms. Faraino’s room into a bid center, they scoured tribunal documents, interviewed witnesses and capitalized connected the media contacts of Ms. Starr’s husband, Bart Starr Jr., the lad of the Hall of Fame backmost Bart Starr. Celebrities of varying fame and notoriety — including Martin Luther King III, Kim Kardashian and the rapper T.I. — were soon championing Mr. Woods’s cause.

Ms. Faraino was troubled that much radical seemed to wage attraction to Mr. Woods’s communicative lone erstwhile 2 affluent Southern achromatic women got involved. “A idiosyncratic connected decease enactment should not unrecorded oregon dice based connected whether the ‘right’ activists, politicians and celebrities talk retired connected their behalf,” she said.


Credit...Matt Kay and Victor Tadashi Suarez

Finally, March 5. The Thursday.

It was a somber time for Andrea Elders, the girl of Officer Carlos Owen. The thought of that evening’s execution did not capable her with joyousness — though she felt that Mr. Woods deserved decease for taking the beingness of a begetter whose past words to her had been, “I emotion you. I’ll speech to you successful the morning.”

No 1 successful her household was cheering, she said. “It’s just: He broke the instrumentality and made a atrocious prime and that was his punishment.”

At astir 4 p.m., Mr. Woods said his last goodbyes to his household and disappeared down a door. By now, corrections officials were acold down their 17-page database of execution procedures. The execution squad had rehearsed. The intravenous instrumentality had been tested. The veins of the condemned antheral had been checked.

Ms. Faraino, meanwhile, was frantically trying to person the 6 p.m. execution called off, successful portion by persuading a comparative of 1 of the murdered officers to inquire Alabama’s governor, Kay Ivey, for compassion.

With little than an hr to go, Kimberly Chisholm Simmons, a sister of Officer Harley Chisholm, returned her call. “He didn’t termination my brother,” Ms. Simmons told Ms. Faraino, according to a signaling of their call. “He was conscionable astatine the incorrect spot astatine the incorrect time.”

Ms. Faraino began to cry. “If I, if I tin get you successful interaction with, with, idiosyncratic astatine the governor’s office, would you convey that connection to them?” she asked.

“Yes I will,” Ms. Simmons said.

With Ms. Simmons inactive connected the line, Ms. Faraino tried to scope the State of Alabama.

“You person reached the Alabama Department of Corrections. Please perceive to the pursuing options …”

“Thank you for calling the bureau of the Alabama lawyer general, Steve Marshall. Our bureau hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. …”

“You person reached Governor Ivey’s authorities office. We are either successful a gathering oregon …”

Ms. Faraino yet managed to nonstop the politician a connection from Ms. Simmons that asserted Mr. Woods’s innocence and included a plea: “I beg you to person mercy connected him.”

Mercy was fleeting.

About 22 minutes earlier the scheduled 6 p.m. execution, Justice Clarence Thomas of the U.S. Supreme Court granted a impermanent stay, allowing for 1 much reappraisal of the case. With the decease warrant expiring astatine midnight, the Supreme Court had six hours to determine Mr. Woods’s fate.

At 7:35, connection came that Governor Ivey had decided that clemency for Mr. Woods was “unwarranted.” A fewer minutes later, the Supreme Court lifted the stay, allowing the execution to proceed.

There was thing much to do. At 8:08, a disconsolate Ms. Faraino sent an email to 1 of the lawyers who had fought for Mr. Woods’s life. All it said was:

“It’s implicit Alicia. They are executing him.”

The ritual resumed.

The condemned antheral was strapped to a gurney of achromatic sheets and achromatic restraints. The situation warden work aloud the decease warrant, past asked whether determination were immoderate last words. No.

Prison officials checked the integrity of the IV lines 1 past time. Then, astatine 8:38, determination began to travel a saline solution with midazolam hydrochloride, which is intended to render the condemned unconscious.

The antheral lifted his caput and shoulders, arsenic if straining to spot into 1 of the witnesser galleries. He moved his lips. He held up an scale finger. Then his caput lowered.

After a fewer minutes, a subordinate of the execution squad stepped guardant to measure the condemned man’s awareness. First, by saying the man’s name; second, by stroking his eyelashes; third, by pinching his arm.

Once unconsciousness was confirmed, the remainder of the chemicals began to travel done the IV lines: a musculus relaxant called rocuronium bromide, and potassium chloride, to induce cardiac arrest.

Nathaniel Woods was declared dormant astatine 9:01 p.m. He was 43. He is buried successful a Muslim cemetery successful Georgia, a bully 50 miles from the Alabama line.

Cydney Tucker and Matt Kay contributed reporting. Alain Delaquérière and Susan Campbell Beachy contributed research.

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