If executions were to resume in North Carolina, our state would likely be making the same embarrassing headlines that Oklahoma is right now — stories of torturous executions, last-minute foul ups, and possibly innocent inmates eating their last meals again and again as the state fumbles with its machinery of death.
McCollum and Brown were declared innocent one year ago today, exposing deep flaws in N.C.’s death penalty and shocking the world. Yet, North Carolina has done little to ensure that their story won’t be repeated. Let’s not forget just how wrong our justice system can get it, and how difficult it can be to uncover the truth.
Lawmakers have mounted an effort to resume executions while failing to enact a single reform in response to the exoneration of N.C.’s longest-serving death row inmate, Henry McCollum, who was wrongly imprisoned for 30 years. Gov. McCrory should not only refuse to sign this bill. He should call an official moratorium on executions until we figure out how many more innocent people still sit on death row.
What if we told you that almost every murder in N.C. is charged capitally? That cases are declared capital before police have completed thorough investigations? That the threat of death is used to bully people into pleading guilty, even though they might be innocent? These are the revelations in a new report from CDPL.
McCrory said it was “the right thing to do” when he pardoned Henry McCollum and Leon Brown in early June. Now, we hope he will do the next right thing: Think about how many other innocent people might still be sitting on death row. Our governor has the power to ensure that an innocent person will not be executed in North Carolina. Using that power would show that McCollum and Brown didn’t give up three decades of their lives for nothing.
This is just one more sign that the death penalty is on borrowed time, nationally and in North Carolina. Nineteen states have now abolished it, several more have active repeal campaigns, and the vast majority of U.S. states, including North Carolina, are no longer carrying out executions.
You know the death penalty is on its last gasp when one of the most heavily Republican states in the nation votes to repeal it. That’s what happened this week in Nebraska, where legislators voted overwhelmingly to replace the death penalty with life in prison without parole.
A few months ago, the world watched as Henry McCollum was declared innocent after 30 years on North Carolina’s death row. Now, N.C. lawmakers say we need to hurry up and execute people.
The N.C. Commission on Actual Innocence is reexamining all convictions that relied on microscopic hair analysis. This type of evidence, once widely used in death penalty prosecutions, is now recognized to be based on junk science. Yet, many people convicted with it still sit in prison.
Jonathan Broun has represented some of North Carolina’s most high-profile defendants, including UNC student Eve Carson’s killer and a man accused of torturing and killing a 4-year-old. Broun explains what motivates him to take on our state’s most difficult cases and fight tirelessly against the death penalty.