Matthew Hyde

Matthew Hyde

He was just 17 years old when he shot and mortally wounded Albertville police investigator Andy Whitten in 1995. 

Matthew Hyde was originally sentenced to death after being convicted of capital murder in the slaying. But the sentence was automatically reduced to life in prison without parole when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the death penalty unconstitutional for juveniles. 

Hyde's attorneys later filed a petition for a reduced sentence. It was denied by Circuit Judge Tim Riley and the Alabama appeals court. But the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the Marshall County Circuit Court to hold a new sentencing hearing. 

Judge Riley held the hearing and ruled this week that Hyde's sentence would remain life in prison without parole. 

In an 8-page ruling, Riley explained the background of the case and why he ruled that the sentence would remain life without parole. 

Whitten was a popular detective on the Albertville police force. His father and brother were also career law enforcement officers. 

"This officer had made arrests of a Larry Whitehead and co-defendant Steven Brookshire and had interviewed Matthew Hyde as part of a criminal scheme to defraud and steal monies from a local poultry plant," Riley wrote. "The scheme involved Hyde and Brookshire clocking in for work Larry Whitehead as an employee when in fact Whitehead did not work at the plant."

Whitten had investigated Whitehead on the case and a theft trial was pending. Whitehead was concerned he could go to prison for life as an habitual offender if convicted. 

"A plan was hatched by all three defendants to stop Detective Whitten from testifying about the theft scheme at the poultry plant," Riley wrote. "The three defendants agreed that the plan would be to murder the detective to keep him from testifying in court. The final idea was to kill the officer during the night at his home."

Hyde was made the triggerman because the 3 thought he would face the least trouble since he was underage. 

"During the night of January 24, 1995, the three defendants arrived by car at Officer Whitten's home just off Whitesville Road, Albertville," Riley wrote. "Hyde got out and approached the house with a semi-automatic pistol and knocked on the door of the house. There was no immediate response from inside the house. After a few moments and no response, Hyde started to leave the doorway. However, a light came on inside the home. Matthew Hyde heard someone coming to answer the knock on the door.

"Officer Whitten opened the door and Hyde immediately shot the detective in the stomach. The officer fell back onto the floor, and Hyde pushed the door further open and kept pulling the trigger of the pistol. However, after the first shot, the semi­-automatic pistol jammed and stopped firing. Hyde admitted he would have kept firing, but for the pistol's bullet jam. Indeed, after the officer fell to the floor, Hyde kept pulling the trigger trying to shoot the fallen officer."

Whitten called 911 himself. He later died at the hospital from the gunshot. 

"After a jury trial, Matthew Hyde was convicted of Capital Murder on May 15, 1996, on three separate counts. He was sentenced to death by the Circuit Court Judge William Jetton," Riley wrote. 

The re-sentencing was considered necessary because of a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that a mandatory life without parole sentence for a juvenile violated the U.S. Eighth Amendment's prohibition on "cruel and unusual punishment." 

Riley wrote that Hyde was 17 years and 10 months old at the time of the killing, living on his own, renting a trailer and paying for his own utilities, food and supplies. 

"He acted as an adult in most of all his day to day life activities before the murder of Detective Whitten," Riley wrote. 

He also said the evidence was clear that Hyde was very much part of the planning of the murder. 

"He fully intended to kill the police officer," Riley ruled. "There is no evidence that he lacked mental capacity for criminal intent. The facts prove Hyde was very much a part of the scheme to silence Officer Whitten. There was no evidence Hyde was under the influence of drugs. There was no evidence he was coerced to commit the act of murder. Hyde stood alone and waited for Andy Whitten to open his home's door."

Riley called it "the worst of the worst of murders" since it involved "a pre-planned assassination of a career detective to stop him from carrying out his sworn duty to investigate and testify about a crime that the defendant was a part of."

Hyde moved around a lot growing up. He used drugs and idolized an uncle who was part of the Devil's Disciples Motorcycle Gang.

"He especially admired this uncle who held some type of status with the biker gang," Riley wrote. "This uncle was known as a tough character for violence in the trailer park where Hyde lived with his mother."

A doctor who examined Hyde, Dr. Carol Walker, testified that Hyde had completed many classes in prison, including his GED, and had gained "sophistication and maturity" and there was no evidence that he had psychopathic or antisocial traits. 

Riley found Hyde had no mental issues and was an intelligent person. 

"Matthew Hyde and his older brother grew up in the same environment: trailer parks, parties, drinking, drugs, fighting, and motorcycle gangs," Riley wrote. "Matthew Hyde decided to participate and carry out the violent murder of a police detective to stop him from testifying in court. Mark Hyde, the defendant's brother, grew up in the exact same environment yet has never committed a crime like his brother, Matt. Many other young people grow up in bad environments but do not make a giant leap to the crime of murder of a police officer or witness."

Riley said Hyde's "choice to assassinate the police detective was voluntary."

The judge wrote that he had "reviewed the testimony, the exhibits, the testimony of defendant's expert witness, latest defense witnesses, and Matthew Hyde's own testimony before this Court.

"Matthew Hyde's conduct in the case is among the worst of the worst of juvenile murders. Also, to quote from Matthew Hyde in this case, 'I do not deserve mercy.' 'I should deal with this every day.' 'The Whitten family carries this each day.' He does not deserve a lesser sentence. He is not entitled to a reduced sentence by this Court. He is sentenced to Life in Prison Without the Possibility of Parole."

Matt Hyde was 17 when he went to jail for the murder of Det. Andy Whitten. He is 42 today. 

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