Death sentence reversed on appeal

By Staff
Nathan Strickland
The decision to sentence a Red Bay man to death on capital murder charges has been reversed.
The Alabama Attorney's General Office has asked the state Court of Criminal Appeals to reconsider its decision to reverse the capital murder conviction of Jody Wayne Waldrop, of Red Bay.
Waldrop, 31, was convicted Aug. 17, 2007, in Franklin County Circuit Court and sentenced to death by a jury of his peers for the 2005 homicide of his 3-week-old son, Jody Chance Waldrop.
Prosecutors claimed Waldrop shook the child violently. Waldrop testified he dropped the baby while trying to light a cigarette.
The Court of Criminal Appeals issued an order overturning Waldrop's conviction Friday, citing comments about Waldrop's assault conviction in Mississippi that were made during the trial as grounds for the reversal.
The justices claimed that Franklin Circuit Court Judge Terry Dempsey should have instructed jurors the comments could not be used as evidence for convicting Waldrop.
Appeals Court Justices Alisa Kelli Wise, Samuel Henry Welch, J. Elizabeth Kellum and James Allen Main agreed with jurors. Justice Mary Becker Windom dissented.
Franklin District Attorney Joey Rushing was baffled when he learned the conviction had been overturned.
"His attorneys are the ones that brought up his prior record during their direct questioning of the defendant," Rushing said. "We only asked the defendant about his assault conviction as a follow-up to what his own attorneys had asked.
"We believe the judge's failure to instruct jurors to not consider Waldrop's prior conviction as evidence in this trial is what the legal community defines as harmless error. We do not see it as grounds to overturn his conviction."
Officials with the Equal Justice Initiative Center in Montgomery, who represented Waldrop in the appeal, could not be reached for comment Friday.
Assistant Attorney General Clay Crenshaw said he will ask the appeals court justices to rehear Waldrop's appeal.
If the appeals court refuses to reinstate the conviction, he will ask the Alabama Supreme Court to overturn the appeals court decision.
"We can carry it all the way to U.S. Supreme Court if we need to," he said.
Rushing said he is confident the state Supreme Court will overturn the appeals court ruling.
If the Appeals Court's decision to overturn the conviction stands, Waldrop will receive another trial.
While awaiting a final decision on his appeal, Waldrop will remain on death row at Holman Prison in Atmore.

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