Again and again, the prosecutors and cops who put innocent people in prison — even send them to death row — face no consequences. Now, the State Bar is sending a message that lawyers who expose the system’s misdeeds could be subject to retribution.
In North Carolina, juries did not impose a single new death sentence this year. It was the second year since 2012 that no one was sent to death row. We also neared a decade without an execution. Across the country, the death penalty reached its lowest point in the modern era with just 49 new death sentences and 28 executions. Even Texas only sent two people to death row.
Twenty five years ago, as an assistant district attorney in Forsyth County, Vince Rabil helped put Blanche Taylor Moore on death row. Today, Rabil says it is time to end the death penalty and calls Moore — a frail 82-year-old still sitting on death row — “a living monument to the failure of a vanishing legal remedy.”
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.