Homicide

Alabama inmate convicted of murder seeks execution stay from US Supreme Court

Ronald Bert Smith, who is scheduled to be executed next week, is asking the governor of Alabama to stop his execution

Ronald Bert Smith, who is scheduled to be executed next week, is asking the governor of Alabama to stop his execution  (AP)

An Alabama inmate who was convicted in the slaying of a store clerk during a robbery is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to stay his upcoming execution to consider whether a judge should have been able to give him a death sentence when the jury recommended life imprisonment.

Attorneys for Ronald Bert Smith on Friday filed the stay request.

Smith, who has been on death row since Oct. 6, 1995, was convicted in the November 1994 slaying of Circle C convenience store clerk Casey Wilson. Smith is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection next Thursday.

A jury recommended life imprisonment by a 7-5 vote, but a judge sentenced Smith to the death penalty.

One of Smith's co-defendants, Jay Allen Zuercher, was sentenced to life in prison with parole possible in 10 years. The other, Chad Roundtree, accepted a reduced charge in exchange for his testimony. He pleaded guilty to felony murder and was sentenced to 20 years with parole possible in less than 10.

Smith's attorneys said Alabama is the only state that continues to allow judicial override of a jury's recommendation.

Justices this year struck down Florida's similar sentencing structure. However, the Alabama attorney general's office has argued there are key differences that make Alabama's process legal.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.