Like N.C., Arkansas hasn’t executed a prisoner in more than a decade. Now, with its execution drugs about to expire, Arkansas has crafted a crazy plan to turn its death chamber into a factory, executing eight men during a 10-day period in April and setting a national record. It is yet another example of the horror show that the American death penalty has become, and a reminder why N.C. is better off staying out of the business of executions.
Public safety officials 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. 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. The video comes just as a Wake County jury rejected the death penalty for the seventh time in a row.
If those who want executions to resume in North Carolina get their way, we will find ourselves in the same position as Arizona — where experimental drugs led to a 2-hour botched execution, federal agents seized the state’s illegally purchased execution drugs, and now inmates are being asked to bring their own drugs to their executions. The death penalty has become a grim circus.
Ken retired this month from the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, where he earned his reputation as one of North Carolina’s most respected and visionary death penalty attorneys. Through 35 years of fighting the N.C. death penalty, Ken never lost the idealism or the passion that has driven him since his earliest days. He never stopped being surprised — and outraged — at injustice. And he never stopped plotting to outwit the machinery of death.
Dylann Roof could have been quietly and simply sent to prison for the rest of his life. Instead, his death penalty trial has become an international spectacle where, acting as his own lawyer, he will get to cross examine survivors and victims’ families. Even in the worst crimes, the death penalty serves no one.
“Thank God this wasn’t a capital case,” Barry Scheck said as his client, Darryl Howard, walked free after 21 years wrongfully imprisoned for a double murder he did not commit. Howard’s exoneration in a Durham courtroom this week was yet another reminder of why we cannot trust our justice system to decide life and death.
Today is a somber anniversary in North Carolina. The last execution carried out in our state was on this day 10 years ago. We didn’t know it then, but that day marked a dividing line in North Carolina’s history. Before, North Carolina had one of the most active death chambers in the nation. After, we became the only state in the South to put executions on hold.
I can only remember certain sounds. Mrs. Carter was walking back and forth on Savannah Street crying and screaming “Oh God, his poor momma, his poor momma!” Everyone else seemed to be standing as far away as they could, but still trying to see. I suppose I could have been among them, but I was stuck; my eyes glued to the corpse.
Paul Brown has spent 16 years on N.C.’s death row. Recently, he has begun recording the stories of his life. Paul’s essays offer no simple conclusions. They are the record of a complicated and broken life. Yet, they speak poignantly to what it means to be human.
Even the death penalty’s biggest supporters are beginning to see its waste and inefficacy. Last week, as North Carolina neared a decade without an execution, Gaston County District Attorney Locke Bell said he would no longer pursue the ultimate punishment because it is too difficult to carry out and is a drain on court resources.