Mobile, Alabama is set to witness its first death penalty trial in nearly six years as accused cop killer Marco Antonio Perez prepares to face trial for capital murder. This trial marks the first death penalty trial in Mobile under a law passed by the Alabama Legislature in 2017, giving jurors the sole authority to determine sentencing, a power previously held by judges.
The previous death penalty trial in Mobile County was that of Christopher Jay Knapp in 2018, who was convicted of killing a toddler but was sentenced to life in prison without parole based on the jury’s recommendation. The last death sentence in the county was in 2017, when Jamal Oneal Jackson was sentenced to death for fatally stabbing a woman 32 times.
Due to the disruption of jury trials by COVID-19 in 2020, death penalty cases had been put on hold, according to Mobile County District Attorney Keith Blackwood. However, since then, there have been plea bargains and cases where the death penalty was removed as an option.
With Perez and six others facing pending death penalty cases in Mobile County, the district attorney emphasized that the death penalty should be reserved for the most heinous offenses. Blackwood remains supportive of the death penalty, but stressed the importance of using it judiciously and with clear justification to the public.
Mobile County has historically been an active jurisdiction for death penalty cases, trailing behind only Jefferson County in the number of people on Alabama’s death row. However, Blackwood maintains that the decision to seek the death penalty should be made with careful consideration, and he has even withdrawn the state’s intention to seek death in certain cases.
In conclusion, as Mobile, Alabama prepares for its first death penalty trial in years, the district attorney’s office is emphasizing the need to reserve the death penalty for the most extreme cases. Blackwood has taken steps to re-evaluate existing cases in the pipeline, demonstrating a careful and considered approach to seeking the ultimate penalty.