‘It could happen to anyone’ – Slain Alabama student’s parents push for bail reform

Published 6:15 pm Monday, October 24, 2022

The parents of a slain Alabama college student and mayors from across the state on Monday urged voters to approve a proposed constitutional amendment aimed at giving judges more discretion to deny bail to people charged with violent crimes.

The Alabama Constitution says people have a right to bail unless they are charged with capital murder. Amendment One would add murder, kidnapping, rape, first-degree domestic violence and other offenses to the list of crimes for which bail can be denied.

The measure is named Aniah’s Law for 19-year-old Aniah Blanchard, who was killed in 2019 after being abducted from an Auburn gas station. At the time, the suspect was free on bond in an earlier kidnapping case.

Blanchard’s family and mayors from the state’s largest cities held a news conference in Auburn to promote the proposal that’s on the Nov. 8 ballot. Monday was third anniversary of Blanchard being reported missing.

“No family should have to go through such a tragedy. If this could happen to Aniah, it could happen to anyone. Please keep your family, your friends and your community safe, and honor Aniah’s memory on November 8th,” Angela Harris, Blanchard’s mother, said in a news release.

Blanchard, the stepdaughter of UFC fighter Walt Harris, was a student at Southern Union State Community College. She was last seen alive Oct. 23, 2019. Her remains were later found in a wooded area.

Walt Harris, said it was difficult for the family to be back in Auburn and “to drive down the road where I know she was last at.” But he said the amendment is important.

“The alleged perpetrator should not have been on the streets,” Harris said. “This law will give somebody else’s child a chance at life, so go out and take a stand at the polls.”

The group Alabama Big 10 Mayors, an organization comprised of the mayors of the state’s largest cities, organized Monday’s event.

Auburn Mayor Ron Anders said fall in Auburn is a beautiful, bustling season as students return to campus. “This fall should have included Aniah Blanchard as well,” Anders said.

Under the proposal, crimes for which bail can be denied would include murder, kidnapping in the first degree, rape in the first degree, sodomy in the first degree, sexual torture, domestic violence in the first degree, human trafficking in the first degree, burglary in the first degree, arson in the first degree, robbery in the first degree, terrorism, and aggravated child abuse of a child under the age of six.

Alabama lawmakers approved the proposed constitutional amendment without a dissenting vote.