Just in time for Veterans Day, a sobering new report shows that North Carolina is one of many states that routinely condemns veterans to death and executes them, with little regard for the trauma they endured while serving our country. Twenty-four of North Carolina’s 148 death row inmates are military veterans. Six veterans have been executed.
A case heard in the U.S. Supreme Court this week could force courts across the country to stop ignoring clear evidence that African Americans are systematically denied the right to serve on juries. North Carolina should watch this case closely.
The death penalty has been on the decline in the U.S. for more than a decade, but right now, capital punishment is imploding rather spectacularly. Executions are on hold in 16 states due to lethal injection problems. The handful of states still attempting to execute inmates have created a spectacle of torturous botched executions.
Edmisten says death penalty is as arbitrary as “Russian roulette.” His comments come two weeks after Rep. Jon Hardister became the first N.C. Republican legislator to announce his opposition to the death penalty. Support for the death penalty is quickly eroding in N.C.
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.