Watch a new video from the Center for Death Penalty Litigation:
The death penalty was once the default punishment for first-degree murder in North Carolina, but times have clearly changed. In a new video from the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, a retired police chief and a former N.C. prison warden who participated in 14 executions both say they believe the death penalty does nothing to keep our society safe.
Public safety officials, prosecutors, and judges used to be among the death penalty’s staunchest supporters. Now, some are beginning to speak up about the punishment’s unfairness, inefficiency, and failure to improve public safety.
The video was released just after Wake County prosecutors spent eight weeks trying to convince a jury to give Nathan Holden the death penalty, only to have the jurors — who had been selected for their open mindedness about the death penalty — say no. Holden will spend the rest of his life in prison for killing his in-laws and shooting his wife, a firm and just punishment for a terrible crime.
It has been nearly a decade since a Wake jury agreed to send a person to death row, and that’s not for prosecutors’ lack of effort. They have now tried and failed to get the death penalty eight times in a row.
How many times will Wake prosecutors have to hear the word “No” before they stop wasting their efforts seeking the death penalty, which adds greatly to the expense of a trial? It’s clear that Wake citizens no longer believe the death penalty is necessary to punish even the worst crimes, not when life without parole is the alternative.
In all 100 counties, North Carolina juries have returned just one death sentence in the past two years. The punishment is now used so rarely as to be obsolete.
It’s time for more prosecutors and public safety officials to think deeply about the death penalty, rather than reflexively seeking the ultimate punishment. It’s time they got the message that times have changed.