Monday, December 5, 2022

Harris Urges Voters To Back Bail Changes After Blanchard’s Death

A group, including multiple Alabama mayors and UFC heavyweight Walt Harris, have urged voters to force a constitutional amendment related to the murder of Aniah Blanchard.

Blanchard, the stepdaughter of MMA fighter Harris, went missing on October 24, 2019. She was last seen at Chevron gas station in Auburn, Alabama, where a witness claimed to have seen her being kidnapped.

A month after her disappearance, Blanchard’s body was found in Macon County, with the cause of death determined to have been a gunshot wound. Ibraheem Yazeed was later arrested and charged with the murder.

19-year-old Blanchard, who was a student at Southern Union State Community College, is thought to have been abducted by an individual known to authorities. Prior to the killing of Harris’ stepdaughter, Yazeed was out of jail on a $280,000 bond. He’d previously been arrested in February 2019 and charged with two counts of attempted murder resulting from another kidnapping case.

Per the Alabama Constitution, individuals have a right to bail unless charged with capital murder. Now, following Blanchard’s tragic killing, the Harris family and multiple state mayors are hoping to force change.

Walt & Angela Harris, Aniah Blanchard
Image Credit: Walt Harris

Blanchard’s death has led to the creation of “Aniah Law,” which seeks to reform bail in the state. In the proposed Amendment One, murder, kidnapping, rape, first-degree domestic violence, and multiple other offenses will be added to the list of crimes for which a judge can deny bail.

Harris: “The Alleged Perpetrator Shouldn’t Have Been On The Streets”

The Alabama House of Representatives resoundingly voted 104-0 in favor of the law in February 2020, with the Alabama Senate following suit over a year later, voting 30-0 in favor of the amendments in April 2021.

Last June, Governor Kay Ivey also signed Aniah’s Law. Amendment One will now go to the voters next month.

Ahead of the November 8 ballot, and with Monday marking the third anniversary of her disappearance, Blanchard’s family and mayors from Alabama’s biggest cities held a news conference in Auburn.

Among the speakers was UFC heavyweight Harris, who urged voters to help pass the amendment.

“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.” (h/t The State)

What do you make of the proposed bail amendments?