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In the United States, juries are often seen as democracy in action. Twelve men and women are asked to hear an entire case, and ultimately, decide another person’s fate. But in Alabama, in capital murder cases, the jury’s decision between life and death is only a recommendation.

This story begins back in 2008, when a violent crime was committed in the small town of Auburn, Alabama. It was in the evening, at the start of spring. Shannon Rae McKenzie was at home with her kids.


Overruled was reported by Ashley Cleek and edited by Annie Murphy with sound design by Shani Aviram. The music in this episode is from Blue Dot Sessions, Aaron Oppenheim/Andrew Weathers, Trigg and Gusset, Chris Zabriskie, and Peripheral Living.

Special thanks to our Advising Scholar Valerie Hans, Professor of Law at Cornell Law School for her scholarship and production support on the story. Professor Hans teaches courses on law and social science, empirical legal studies, torts, and the contemporary American jury. 

Full transcript of Overruled


dividerThis episode of Life of the Law was funded in part by our listeners and by grants from the Open Society Foundation, the Law and Society Association, the Proteus Fund and the National Science Foundation.

We would like to thank Squarespace for sponsoring this episode of Life of the Law.

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  • Chase Hansen

    Today the Supreme Court in Hurst v. Florida overturned a similar sentencing scheme for capital cases. Maybe Alabama will have to change their sentencing scheme too.


    so some inhuman monster rapes, tortures, and kills an innocent woman and people are disturbed he’s getting the death penalty? wow.. Lol let’s donate money to Isis now.. poor misunderstood soldiers. why are we bombing them and killing their clerics? hmmmm… I’m glad Cali brought back the death penalty and I’ll be responsible for moving more cases toward DEATH. I’d like to see public hanging a for rape, murder, and child molestation.. anyone who wants to chant liberal nonsense should let me cut up your child and stitch them into a tree by their lips and eyelids then we can talk.

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