A grand jury in Alabama has handed down three capital murder indictments to Ibraheem Yazeed, 32 (per AL.com). Yazeed is accused of killing 19-year-old Aniah Blanchard, the daughter of UFC heavyweight Walt Harris.
The three indictments are for capital murder during a kidnapping, capital murder during a robbery and capital murder involving a victim in a vehicle. All these counts carry a possible death sentence (or life in prison) if Yazeed is found guilty.
Yazeed has been jailed in Lee County, AL since November, 2019. His arrest, in Pensacola, FL, came around two weeks after Blanchard had been reported missing. Blanchard, a student at Southern Union College, was last seen outside a convenience store in Homewood, AL after encountering Yazeed inside the store.
Authorities believe Yazeed kidnapped Blanchard in the parking lot of that store, using Blanchard’s vehicle. Authorities also believe that Yazeed killed Blanchard inside that vehicle. Her remains were later discovered in a wooded area in Macon County, AL.
Yazeed was arrested on suspicion of killing Blanchard while he was out on bail for a separate, and unconnected, attempted murder case.
10 months before Blanchard went missing, Yazeed was charged over an incident that allegedly occurred inside a hotel room. In that room, authorities believe Yazeed beat a 77-year-old man almost to death and robbed him of a Rolex, rifle, handguns, wallet, bank card and clothing.
Yazeed was also charged with attempted murder in 2012 after he was accused of ramming a police vehicle with his car in Montgomery, AL. A grand jury declined to indict him on any charges stemming from that incident.
The death of Blanchard has lead to the passing of ‘Aniah’s Law’ on November 8, during the U.S. Midterm Elections. That legislation was spearheaded by Blanchard’s family. Prior to that law passing, judges could only withhold bail from individuals charged with capital murder. Now, judges are permitted to jail individuals indefinitely if they have been charged with first degree kidnapping, rape, sodomy, domestic violence, human trafficking, burglary, arson and robbery as well as aggravated child abuse, sexual torture and terrorism.
Opponent’s of Aniah’s Law have claimed that the law gives too much power to courts to hold people who are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Jerome Dees of the Southern Povery Law Center said the law will lead to people “languishing in Alabama’s jails for years at a time” without ever being convicted.
Alabama already has one of the highest incarceration rates of any democracy on earth (according to Prison Policy). In 2021 the state had 938 per 100,000 people held in prisons, jails, immigration detention centres and juvenile justice facilities. This is around 300 more people that the US national average.