Faith & the Death Penalty (Virtual): Oct. 10, 4-5 p.m.

On October 10, to mark the 19th World Day Against the Death Penalty, we are partnering with the NC Council of Churches to host a panel of voices with lived experience to discuss faith and the death penalty. Panelists include George Wilkerson, who is living on NC’s death row; Andre Smith, who teaches Buddhism to men in prison and lost his son to homicide; and Rev. Sharon Risher, who lost her mother and two cousins in the shooting at Mother Emmanuel AME church in Charleston. Jonathan Wilson Hartgrove, noted writer and leader in the Red Letter Christian movement and the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, will moderate.

Don’t miss this unique opportunity to hear the voices of people most directly impacted by the death penalty, those on death row and those who have lost family members to murder. Please REGISTER HERE to attend.



Fall Coalition Meeting (Virtual): Sept. 23, 2021 1-2:30 p.m.

All are invited to join our quarterly meetings. Our focus for the fall meeting was the upcoming Racial Justice Act (RJA) case of Hasan Bacote in Johnston County, which we hope will pave the way for death-sentenced people across North Carolina to bring forward evidence of racism in their cases. Center for Death Penalty Litigation Executive Director Gretchen Engel and Campaign Strategist Tyler Swanson offered history and updates, including the legal team’s work not only to develop evidence of racism in Mr. Bacote’s trial, but also to dig into the history of racism in Johnston County and create a nuanced picture of how this case fits into a long history of racial oppression and the racist use of the death penalty. Meetings also include opportunities for networking and getting to know one another.

January 20th, 2020: JUST MERCY at the CHELSEA THEATER


JANUARY 20th at 6:30 pm


Chelsea Theater, Chapel Hill

Join us this Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, January 20th at 6:30pm for a special screening of Just Mercy (trailer) at the Chelsea Theater in Chapel Hill–and stay for a post-film conversation with the Coalition. Proceeds of this screening will go to support the work of NCCADP.

Speakers include NCCADP director Emily Baxter and guests from the Center for Death Penalty Litigation: attorneys Erica Washington and Mark Pickett and social worker and communications director Gerda Stein. 

We’ll also have a photo station ready for you to participate in the WHY I OPPOSE THE DEATH PENALTY Instagram campaign. Check it out here.

Don’t miss this opportunity to support the Coalition and to reflect on the film with advocates in our community.

Purchase your ticket here before seats sell out!

January 17th, 2020: IN FOCUS: Injustice in America

Willie May holds a photo of his nephew, Tilmon Golphin, and family outside of the North Carolina Supreme Court after the court heard arguments concerning the Racial Justice Act

In Focus: Injustice in America is a collection of portraits from six photography projects focused on the U.S. criminal legal system, beginning and ending with North Carolina’s death row.

Our nation’s concept of justice has its roots sunk deep into soil fertilized by racism, white supremacy, and the dehumanization, demonization, and dismissal of the “other.”  America’s criminal legal system began with genocide and slavery, then lynching and court-ordered public executions to mollify mobs. Today, we have executions that are more sterilized, but just as brutal, and policies and policing that disproportionately ensnare black, brown, and Indigenous people. Past and present, it’s a “justice” system that’s anything but just.

In Focus: Injustice in America ties a few of these injustices together through image and narrative.

In Focus: Injustice in America
January 17th at 5pm
Exhibit on display through mid-February
Arcana Bar (entrance in the back of the Snow building)
331 West Main Street
Downtown Durham

January 9th, 2020: JUST MERCY run begins!

Capital defense attorney, Elizabeth Hambourger, joined folks at the Chelsea Theater for a special introduction to the run of the acclaimed film, Just Mercy. Elizabeth shared some of her experiences through her fifteen years of work at the Center for Death Penalty Litigation and as a member of the North Carolina Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

December 8th, 2019: The Continuing Conversations Group (CCG) invites the St. Paul’s community to a conversation about mass incarceration in the U.S. and the role that race plays within our criminal justice system.

Thanks to CCG and the greater St Paul’s community for inviting Emily (NCCADP) and Lyle (Central Prison) to hold a conversation exploring the image of God as an arrested man on death row.

August 26th and 27th, 2019: the North Carolina Supreme Court heard oral arguments in six cases involving the Racial Justice Act. More info here.

JULY 13, 2019: CAROLINA JUSTICE POLICY CENTER presents its second annual POETIC JUSTICE storytelling event

On July 13, 2019 at 3:00 pm in the Durham Friends Meeting located at 404 Alexander Avenue in Durham, the Carolina Justice Policy Center will host their Second Annual Poetic Justice storytelling event. In this powerful event, criminal justice advocates will collaborate with local spoken word artists to share personal experiences about how North Carolina’s criminal justice system has affected their lives. The lineup includes:


  • Danielle Cortez (Blaize the Poet)
  • William Davis 
  • Damone Kelly (MsDalia22)


  • Amanda Marriner: Marriner was recently given considerable difficulty when attempting to legally marry her partner Sandy Dowell, who is incarcerated at Neuse Correctional Facility. CJPC had to intervene to protect and ensure their right to marry.
  • Taittiona Miles: Miles is an attorney at North Carolina Prisoner Legal Services, where she represents incarcerated people in civil right suits against the North Carolina prison system on issues including medical treatment, religious accommodation, solitary confinement, and excessive force.
  • Erica Washington: Washington is an attorney at the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, where she represents individuals on North Carolina’s death row, fighting to save them from execution.

There is no cost to attend, though we encourage you to RSVP on Facebook so we know how many to expect.

June 27, 2019: RELIGIOUS COALITION FOR A NONVIOLENT DURHAM at Shepherd’s House United Methodist Church, spoken word from Poetic Justice with Elizabeth Hambourger and Blaize the Poet

MAY 20, 2019: CAROL WOODS RETIREMENT COMMUNITY IN CHAPEL HILL, a conversation with CDPL’s Gerda Stein and Elizabeth Hambourger


APRIL 25, 2019: ST PAUL’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH with Professor Mark Rabil

Thanks to St Paul’s Episcopal Church in Winston-Salem for hosting Professor Mark Rabil, director of Wake Forest School of Law’s Innocence and Justice Clinic. Mark shared with us memories from his representation of and friendship with Darryl Hunt, an innocent man who spent nearly two decades in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. You can read more about Darryl’s case here.

“We don’t deal with cases, we deal with trauma,” said Mark, “and it’s contagious. It affects everyone in the courtroom: the victims’ families catch it, the defendants’ families catch it, the defense attorneys certainly catch it.” Speaking more broadly about the criminal justice system, Professor Rabil said: “We either believe that people are human beings and deserve respect, or we do not…and if we believe the former, we cannot support the death penalty.”

APRIL 10, 2019: UNC LAW panel with the ACLU Capital Punishment Project Director, Cassy Stubbs, NCCADP’s Emily Baxter, Wake County DA Lorrin Freeman, and UNC Law professor Carrisa Hessick

ACLU Capital Punishment Project Director Cassy Stubbs

APRIL 5, 2019: DUKE UNIVERSITY SANFORD SCHOOL OF PUBLIC POLICY, a conversation with Gretchen Engel, Executive Director of CDPL, and Sen. McKissick 

APRIL 3, 2019: Representatives Graig Meyer, Zach Hawkins, and MaryAnn Black filed a bill to repeal the death penalty in North Carolina today.

Across the street, family members of those who have been sentenced to death, family members of murder victims, advocates, attorneys, clergy, students, policymakers, and more gathered for a reading of Hidden Voices’ monologues from NC’s death row.

Thanks to all who marked the day, with tears, laughter, and hope.

MARCH 29, 2019: PARTNERS from CDPL, CJPC, INDIGENT DEFENSE SERVICES, UNC’s School of Government, FORWARD JUSTICE, NCAJ and more come together to present: Tackling the Crisis of Racialized Mass Incarceration

MARCH 20, 2019: DUKE UNIVERSITY, an ACLU-sponsored panel with CDPL’s Gretchen Engel 

MARCH 12, 2019: NC Policy Watch’s Crucial Conversation, with Andre Smith, Kristin Collins, and Elizabeth Hambourger

MARCH 5, 2019: RALEIGH CHARTER HIGH SCHOOL, with CDPL staff attorney Elizabeth Hambourger

MARCH 5, 2019: DUKE UNIVERSITY, Shelagh Kenney, Director of Post-Conviction Litigation at CDPL, joins a Human Rights class

MARCH 5, 2019: UNC LAW, a conversation with Kristin Collins and Gretchen Engel from CDPL


Thursday, January 17, 2019 • 12:30 PM • Law School 3037

The death penalty has fallen out of use in North Carolina, yet our state has the sixth largest death row in the nation. The vast majority of N.C.’s 140 death row prisoners were tried in the 1990s, before a wave of reforms transformed the criminal justice system. Had they been tried under modern laws and standards, most of them never would have been sentenced to death. The Center for Death Penalty Litigation’s new report, Unequal Justice: How Obsolete Laws and Unfair Trials Created North Carolina’s Outsized Death Row, explores the deep inequities of N.C.’s decades-old death row cases. CDPL’s Executive Director Gretchen Engel and Staff Attorney Erica Washington will be joining us for a discussion of the report. Sponsored by the Duke Center for Criminal Justice and Professional Responsibility, the Duke Criminal Law Society, and the Duke Law Innocence Project. For more information, please contact Callie Thomas at callie.thomas@duke.edu.


  • January 10, 2019 – January 27, 2019 (Recurring daily)
  • Pleiades Gallery
  • 109 E Chapel Hill St, Durham, NC 27701
  • Th 12-7, F-Sa 12-8, and Su 12-3
  • Free
  • (919) 797-2706

Pleiades Arts, Inc. in Durham presents SERVING LIFE, a community call and response between public audiences and the most hidden members of our society. The public is invited to join us for this collaborative exhibit between Hidden Voices, men on death rows across the country, and artists, creating a project able to generate the civic will to revision justice. Hidden Voices’ mission is to challenge, strengthen, and connect diverse communities through the transformative power of the individual voice. Pleiades Arts, Inc. was awarded the Durham Arts Catalyst Grant in support of this exhibit. Pleiades Arts promotes discussion of important community issues through art and creates opportunities for individuals in the Triangle Area to develop and display their artistic talents. This exhibit runs from January 3-27. Third Friday Reception January 18, 6-9pm.


Restorative justice circles have been utilized for centuries as a way to reconnect communities and individuals in the wake of harm. We invite you into this sacred practice, to share and learn alongside families who have had a loved one murdered and families who have had a loved one convicted of murder. At “A Community Circle: Holding Space for Repairing Harm through Restorative Justice,” all are welcome to participate with us in an intentional circle process that reflects the beautiful roundness of beloved community. Co-sponsored by the Capital Restorative Justice ProjectRestorative Justice Durham of the Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham, and Duke Chapel. Graciously hosted by Calvary United Methodist Church.


Standing on Love is a collection of portraits of people with family members on death row. The images are by freelance photographer Jenny Warburg. The exhibit is on display in Duke Chapel in Durham through December 2.


On October 11th, CDPL honored two of our community’s most outstanding capital defense attorneys, law partners Frank Wells and Jon Megerian. [Go to CDPL’s site to read more about Frank and Jon’s exceptional careers.] Despite a hurricane and a power outage, we managed to have a powerful night celebrating their many accomplishments.


On July 14, 2018, the Carolina Justice Policy Center hosted Poetic Justice — an event that paired spoken word artists with criminal justice advocates to tell true stories from the criminal justice system. Topics explored by poets and advocates ranged from the death penalty to juvenile justice to bail reform to racial injustice. You can find video from the day on CJPC’s YouTube channel.


Henderson Hill, executive director of the 8th Amendment Project, and Elizabeth Hambourger, staff attorney for the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, will discuss capital punishment as part of a community conversation hosted by UNC Charlotte’s Aliaga-Buchenau Witness in Residence Initiative.

The conversation will begin at 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, April 10, at UNC Charlotte Center City and is open to the public without charge. Registration is requested.


Toward the end of each year, the Capital Restorative Justice Project brings together people who have lost loved ones to violence, families whose loved ones have been sentenced to death, and the broader community for a weekend of restorative practices.


J. Kirk Osborn was an extraordinary attorney who represented capital defendants at trial, on direct appeal, and in post-conviction and clemency proceedings. Each year, the Center for Death Penalty Litigation presents the Osborn Award, honoring lifelong zealous advocacy, compassion for indigent men and women facing the death penalty, and leadership in the capital defense community.


One of the most important opportunities to voice your support for second chances is the biannual “Second Chance Lobby Day” –last year held at the North Carolina Legislative Building on Tuesday, April 25, 2017. For upcoming events, check out the North Carolina Justice Center’s Second Chance Alliance.