Nathaniel "Nate" Woods

Nathaniel “Nate” Woods is set to be executed by Alabama on March 5, 2020.


Nate’s co-defendant Kerry Spencer, the confessed triggerman in the killing of three police officers, was sentenced to life without parole by his jury, but the judge imposed death.[1]  Nate, who was tried 3.5 months later by the same judge and prosecutors, was sentenced to die by a 10-2 jury vote on an unsubstantiated theory of accomplice liability.[2]


ACTUAL INNOCENCE

There is no evidence that there was any plan or scheme to kill the police officers; they were killed by one man (Spencer) acting alone. Nate has always maintained his innocence, as do ALL all witnesses who were with Nate before and during the shooting. Nate at first refuse to come outside when the officers came to arrest him on a likely invalid warrant. But surviving officer Collins testified that he heard Nate surrender to the police before Spencer began shooting, saying “I give up. I give up” when one officer came at him with Mace. Defiance does not make one complicit in capital murder. 


WITNESS & EVIDENCE TAMPERING

At least 2 key State’s witnesses were coached, intimidated and baited before their trial testimonies by the assistant DA, a detective and a so-called “memory expert.” The DA hired a “memory expert” to meet with at least one witness a few days before trial; the expert repeatedly asked the witness the same question until the witness changed answers, despite attempts to say they remembered things differently. The witnesses never came forward until Nate’s new post-conviction counsel became involved in Feb. 2020 because they were not aware that such tactics were illegal. Another witness was intimidated by the State into providing untrue testimony after they threatened to take away her child.

Additionally, the first evidence technician on the scene after the shooting engaged in evidence tampering. He returned one officer’s Mace to the holster without telling anyone that it was actually on the floor when he arrived on the scene, and he only corrected his report 6 weeks later when another officer pointed out that his log was inconsistent with the crime scene photos. This demonstrated an effort by the state to hide that the police initiated aggression, and calls into question whether other evidence (like the officer’s gun) was likewise concealed or modified.


DISPROPORTIONATE SENTENCING

One of the most overlooked and critical facts is that the State offered Nate a plea deal of 20- to 25-years after Spencer’s June 2005 conviction but before Nate’s trial began in October 2005. Not 40-60 years, not life with parole, or life without parole but non-capital 20- 25-year sentence. After counsel failed to inform Nate that he could be sentenced to death on a theory of accomplice liability alone, Nate rejected the plea. Nate thus proceeded to trial on the faulty assumption that he would not be convicted let alone executed since there was no evidence of a plan to kill or of Nate being in any way responsible for the shooting. 


INCOMPETENT COUNSEL

Nate has been repeatedly and woefully let down by Court-appointed counsel. Nate’s trial attorneys had never done a capital case. They failed to conduct an adequate investigation, did not question a number of key witnesses, and did absolutely nothing to prepare witnesses for testifying at the sentencing phase. They did not hire a mitigation expert during the sentencing phase, failed to call willing witnesses who could speak to the abuse Nate suffered as a child, and did not conduct a psychological evaluation despite requesting funds for this purpose. At the appellate level, Nate was abandoned at 3 critical junctures—thus time-barring Nate from later petitioning strong and valid claims. 


[1] Spencer’s sentencing in 2005 occurred before Alabama’s repeal of jury override. Alabama became the last state to abolish judge override on April 11, 2017. The law did not apply retroactively.

[2] Alabama is the only state which does not require a unanimous jury decision to impose death.

[3] Collins was quoted in 2014 saying of the officers in the West Precinct (where all of them worked): “Everyone who got in trouble got sent to West unless you just came out of the academy… Nobody else could mess with us.”