FALLING OUT OF FAVOR

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STATES ARE REPEALING THE DEATH PENALTY

In 2018, Washington became the eighth state to repeal the death penalty since 2007. Twenty states now ban executions, and more repeal campaigns are underway. These efforts are a clear sign of a precipitous decline in public support for the death penalty. A 2018 Gallup poll showed that fewer than half of Americans believe the death penalty is applied fairly and support for the punishment is at historic lows.

JURIES ARE RETICENT TO SENTENCE PEOPLE TO DEATH

North Carolina’s last execution was in 2006. In recent years, fewer prosecutors are seeking the death penalty and, when they do, fewer juries are supporting it.

In 2012, 2015, 2017 and 2018, no one was sentenced to death in North Carolina. In Wake County, home to Raleigh and once among the state’s top death-sentencing counties, juries have rejected the death penalty at multiple recent capital trials.

POLLING SUGGESTS MONEY CAN BE BETTER SPENT

A 2017 poll of Wake County voters found strong evidence that death penalty support is waning. More than 60 percent said they would favor replacing the death penalty with life without parole, and nearly 70 percent said they would support a decision by the Wake County district attorney to stop seeking the death penalty at trial. More than half said the death penalty was applied unfairly, and 48 percent believed an innocent person had likely already been executed.

2013 poll of North Carolina voters also showed that a majority of people favor life sentences over executions:

  • 68 percent favored replacing the death penalty with life in prison without parole if offenders were required to work and pay restitution to their victims’ families. As long as they are on death row, inmates cannot earn money to pay off their debts.
  • 63 percent supported ending the death penalty if the money spent on capital punishment were redirected to crime fighting.
  • 55 percent supported ending the death penalty if the money were spent on solving cold cases and victim services.

AT LEAST NINE INNOCENT NORTH CAROLINIANS HAVE BEEN SENTENCED TO DEATH

During the period since executions stopped in North Carolina, five death-sentenced men have been exonerated and released, bringing the total number of innocent people sentenced to die in North Carolina to nine.

FALSE OR MISLEADING FORENSIC EVIDENCE

The State Bureau of Investigation has also admitted to falsifying or mischaracterizing forensic evidence in hundreds of trials, including capital ones.