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Alabama Senate passes law named for Walt Harris’ late daughter Aniah Blanchard

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Aniah’s Law is set to become a ballot option in 2022.

UFC Fight Night: Alistair Overeem v Walt Harris
Walt Harris before he fought Alistair Overeem in May 2020.
Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

Aniah Blanchard, step-daughter of UFC heavyweight Walt Harris, was abducted and murdered in late 2019. She was 19-years-old. Ibraheem Yazeed has been charged kidnapping and homicide in connection with her death.

At the time of his arrest Yazeed was out on bail and awaiting trial for unrelated charges of attempted murder, stemming from an incident that took place in January 2019.

Since Yazeed's arrest for Blanchard’s murder, Harris and his family have worked with Alabama's state legislators on the crafting of a law that would make it harder for individuals charged with serious crimes to get released on bail.

This week ‘Aniah's Law’ past a major hurdle on route to becoming state law. According to WKRG the bill has now passed through a Senate vote. The bill had passed through a House of Representatives vote in February.

The bill was amended slightly to pass the Senate. The bill now goes back to the House where those changes will be considered and another vote will be held. If the House approves the changes the bill will go to Governor Kay Ivey. If Ivey signs off on the bill (it’s unlikely that she won’t), the bill would still require one more action before becoming law.

Because the bill represents a constitutional amendment, passing of the bill must be put to public ballot. The bill can’t become a ballot measure until 2022.

If enacted into law ‘Aniah Law’ would give judges more power to deny bail to people charged with serious crimes. Currently judges can only deny bail to people who are charged with capital crimes (crimes that are eligible for the death sentence in Alabama).

The new law would allow judges to deny bail for people accused of crimes that include first-degree assault, rape, first-degree robbery, first-degree burglary and aggravated child abuse.

The Alabama chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has expressed concerns about the bill. The ACLU has warned that, if enacted, the bill “would result in significantly widening Alabama’s detention net.”

The ACLU also cautioned that the bill would give judges too much power to detain people indefinitely, without bail conditions, if the court deems that a person might not appear in court, might tamper with witnesses or might be a harm to the community at large.

According to Prison Policy Initiative Alabama has an incarceration rate of 946 per 100,000 people. This number refers to people detained in prisons, jails, immigration detention centers and juvenile justice facilities.

According to a 2018 ranking, that number gives Alabama the 5th highest incarceration rate among worldwide worldwide democracies. US States, and the USA itself, make up the top 32 spots in that ranking. The 33rd ranked democracy with the highest incarceration rate is El Salvador with 614 per 100,000 people.