After 12 years without an execution, many people believe the North Carolina death penalty is dead. That might be true — if it weren’t for the more than 140 people still on death row. A new report shows that, by today’s standards, most of them shouldn’t be there.
It’s hard to describe what it feels like to be a capital defense attorney. To be responsible for saving the lives of people who’ve committed terrible crimes, and sometimes, to be forced to watch them die. In this video, Elizabeth Hambourger, a staff attorney at the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, explains in moving and personal terms what it’s like to do this most difficult of jobs.
On that terrible day, the worst moment was telling Quentin’s family that the governor had denied clemency, and that he would be killed in 90 minutes. His younger sister let out a howl that I can still hear now. She sounded like an animal dying in a trap. A social worker and I then went to give Quentin the news. When we told him, and started sobbing, he gathered us into his arms and comforted us. Quentin was so much more than the worst thing he’d done.
In 2017, N.C. juries rejected the death penalty, more innocent people were released from death row, and public support for executions fell to a 45-year low. As we look to 2018, let’s skip the outdated death penalty rhetoric and start looking for solutions that actually make people safer — like properly staffing prisons and supplying guards with working radios.
A little-known aspect of the death penalty is its impact on jurors who must make life-and-death decisions without any of their usual support networks. For jurors, seeking trusted advice and doing independent research is an understandable impulse — but it’s also against the law.
Last week, the Supreme Court halted the execution of Keith Tharpe in Georgia because of a juror’s admission that he voted for death because he believed Tharpe was a “n—-r.” It might be tempting to believe this case was just an anomaly. But Keith Tharpe is far from the only defendant to be sentenced to death by a deeply racist juror.
On the heels of Arkansas’ rush to execute four inmates, several U.S. states are restarting executions after an extended hiatus. Ohio has an unbelievable 26 executions planned, and California — home to the nation’s largest death row, almost 750 people — has just moved toward setting execution dates after a decade without them. North Carolina’s 11-year hiatus is still in place, but only constant vigilance will ensure it stays that way.
Almost every time people discuss the death penalty on social media, at least one person chimes in with this opinion: We should execute people because it’s too expensive to keep them in prison for life. But the truth is, the death penalty costs far more than life without parole. Please read this post and help us spread the truth about the wasteful, inefficient death penalty.
Not long ago, Arkansas was much like North Carolina. It hadn’t executed a death row inmate in more than a decade, and the death penalty appeared to be quietly fading away. How quickly things change. Today, Arkansas is fresh off four executions carried out in the space of eight days. The message to North Carolina is we cannot afford to become complacent. It’s up to us to make sure North Carolina doesn’t become the next Arkansas.
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.