Nathaniel Woods executed for killing 3 cops had 'baited' them into ambush, 'bragged' about it: Prosecutors

The 43-year-old was pronounced dead on March 5 and is the first inmate executed in Alabama this year


                            Nathaniel Woods executed for killing 3 cops had 'baited' them into ambush, 'bragged' about it: Prosecutors
(Alabama Department of Corrections)
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ATMORE, ALABAMA: The controversial execution of a man convicted in the 2004 killing of three police officers went ahead on Wednesday evening despite a last-minute appeal from reality star Kim Kardashian and Martin Luther King Jr III.

Nathaniel Woods, 43, was pronounced dead at 9.01 pm CST on March 5 following a lethal injection at the William C Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Alabama. He did not have any last words and was the first inmate executed in the state this year.

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The execution came just after the US Supreme Court issued a temporary stay to consider last-minute appeals and then denied Woods' petitions, with critics like King calling his death "reprehensible" and stating it "makes a mockery of justice and constitutional guarantees to a fair trial."

The argument for Woods was that he was not the one who pulled the trigger.

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Indeed, on June 17, 2004, the day of the murders, it was his partner, Kerry Spencer, who shot and killed all three police officers, Carlos Owen, 58, Harley A. Chisolm III, 40, and Charles R. Bennett, 33.

Owen and Chisolm were found dead in the kitchen just inside a rear door, and Bennett was fatally shot near the front door. Michael Collins, a fourth officer on the scene, was wounded but managed to escape.

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Spencer admitted his role in the killings during the trial and even wrote a letter asking courts and prosecutors to spare Woods. "Nathaniel Woods is 100% innocent," Spencer wrote. "I know that to be a fact because I'm the person that shot and killed all three of the officers that Nathaniel was subsequently charged and convicted of murdering. Nathaniel Woods doesn't even deserve to be incarcerated, much less executed."

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"He is actually innocent," Woods' sister Pamela similarly said. "Kerry Spencer the actual shooter has stated many times that he did it on his own with no help for anyone."

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But despite those statements, the state's evidence against Woods is pretty ironclad.

Owen, Chisolm, and Bennett had died in a hail of gunfire after Spencer open-fired on them with a high-powered rifle when they responded to Woods' apartment, a suspected drug house, to serve a misdemeanor domestic assault warrant.

The officers had thought they had taken all the precautions too. They had entered through a back door only after talking to Woods, with his lawyers writing in court filings that he was surrendering to them when Spencer shot them.

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But prosecutors told jurors that Woods was the "bait" who lured the officers deeper into the apartment. They also said he had bragged about the murders in song lyrics and art, highlighting how deputies had found a drawing of a bullet-riddled police car in his jail cell and song lyrics such as, "Haven't you ever heard of a kill I drop pigs like Kerry Spencer."

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In denying Woods' petition for Clemency, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey similarly pointed out evidence filed in the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals that showed Woods had talked to others about killing police officers; taunted the officers and lured them into his apartment, where he knew they would be met with gunfire; and pointed the Spencer to the Collins at the front of the house.

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"Each officer died of multiple gunshot wounds," she wrote. "Two officers were shot in the back and one in the head, and none of the officers had an opportunity to discharge return fire. In fact, one officer’s weapon was still holstered."

She said, in the past 15 years, Woods' conviction had been reviewed at least 15 times and that at no point was an argument made that he tried to stop Spencer from committing the crime.

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Alabama is a state where the law dictates that anyone who helps kill a police officer is just as guilty as the person who directly commits the crime. Since 1983, Alabama has executed other individuals besides Woods for being an accomplice in a capital murder.

And an accomplice Woods was, according to 39 witness testimonies, including those from Collins, as well as 25 other law enforcement officers and forensic experts.

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"The jury did not view Woods’ acts as those of an innocent bystander; they believed that he was a fully engaged participant," Ivey wrote. "A jury of Mr Woods’ peers convicted him of four counts of capital murder."

While his execution has been met with opposition from some quarters, others welcomed it. 

"Nathaniel Woods chose his fate on June 17, 2004," wrote Greg Owens, the son of officer Owens, in a statement where he said the older man was a grandfather who just wanted to protect people in the city where he had grown up.

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"Instead of going home that day, he was ambushed, murdered and died on the floor of a filthy drug house." 

No execution date has been set yet for Spencer, who was convicted before Woods and is currently on death row.