One elderly woman sat with us in her living room, wearing a pink nightgown. “I should have followed my conscience,” she said, her hands shaking. “I hope he can forgive me.” It’s unclear if she’s seeking forgiveness from the innocent man she sent to death row, or God himself. Four years after Henry McCollum’s exoneration, jurors are still wrestling with their role.
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.
My client, Terry Ball, slipped away with barely a mention after living on N.C. death row for almost 25 years. I believe his life is worth remembering, and that his story, like all my clients’ stories, hold keys to understanding the origins of crime and our shared humanity with people labeled the worst of the worst.
Jonathan Broun has represented some of North Carolina’s most high-profile defendants, including UNC student Eve Carson’s killer and a man accused of torturing and killing a 4-year-old. Broun explains what motivates him to take on our state’s most difficult cases and fight tirelessly against the death penalty.
I have spent three decades advocating for convicted murderers, people whose lives have been deemed worthless. However, my career has taught me that executions say less about the criminals than they do about us, the society that carries them out.