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 As we look to 2018, let’s skip the outdated death penalty rhetoric and start looking for solutions that actually make people safer — like properly staffing prisons and supplying guards with working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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The last legitimate seller of execution drugs will no longer provide them for the purpose of killing people. It’s time for state lawmakers to abandon their fantasies of restarting lethal injections in North Carolina.
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.
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.
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.