A death penalty as random as a lightning strike

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States like North Carolina, have spent the last 47 years writing laws that — theoretically — allow us to cleanly sort those who deserve the death penalty from those who don’t. All these years later, it’s clear we have failed. Just look at the two most recent death penalty verdicts in North Carolina, in the cases of Seaga Gillard and James Bradley. One got a death sentence and one got life, and there is no rational reason why.… Read More

In California, the moral case for ending the death penalty

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In today’s world, it’s easy to think politicians on both sides of the aisle care only about their own power and reelection chances. But every once in a while, we see an act of moral leadership that renews our faith in government. This week, it happened in California. Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that he would dismantle the death chamber and grant the state’s nearly 750 death row inmates a reprieve. They will remain incarcerated but will no longer live under the threat of execution. It was a stunning move in a state with the nation’s largest death row. North Carolina, too, should make the enlightened choice to put an official end to the death penalty. … Read More

Just like the death penalty, sentencing kids to die in prison is cruel and unusual

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In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional to sentence children to death. (Better late than never!) The decision cited research showing that human brains continue to grow and aren’t fully formed until people are in their early 20s, and that our character and ability to make reasoned decisions is still developing. Given that, it’s unbelievable that North Carolina, and 28 other states, continue to impose a punishment almost as harsh on kids — life with no possibility of parole. Think about that: Still today, a 13-year-old can be declared “irredeemable” and sent to prison with no chance of ever getting out.… Read More

New day in North Carolina: Poll shows majority of voters no longer support the death penalty

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For generations, North Carolina politicians of both parties have had one thing in common: Almost all of them staunchly supported the death penalty. That’s largely because they believed their voters supported it. But late last month, a statewide poll asked the question: What do North Carolinians think about the death penalty today? The results should make state politicians question their death penalty orthodoxy. After more than a decade without executions and a wave of exonerations of innocent people on death row, voters no longer trust the system to decide who should live and die.… Read More

43 years after death sentence, Charles Ray Finch proves his innocence

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A man who was sentenced to death in North Carolina may soon be exonerated after spending more than 40 years in prison. Last week, a federal court said Charles Ray Finch — who was sentenced to death in 1976, but later resentenced to life because of changes to state death penalty laws — is entitled to a new hearing to determine whether he is innocent. The court also discounted nearly every piece of evidence used to convict Finch of murder. Finch will be the 10th person exonerated after getting the death penalty in North Carolina.… Read More

Why we’re winning the fight against the death penalty in North Carolina

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In 2018, for the second year in a row, juries didn’t hand down any new death sentences. We shouldn’t underestimate how significant that is in a state that, in the 1990s, sent dozens of people to death row every year. Executions remained on hold for a twelfth year. And even our state’s district attorneys have begun to flag in their enthusiasm for death sentences. … Read More

Resentenced to Life: Why justice matters, even for my guilty clients

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Legally, there was a strong argument that even though Jimmy was guilty, he should never have been sentenced to death. The jury that sentenced him didn’t know that this impulsive crime was in part the product of several traumatic brain injuries, which began in childhood. If Jimmy were retried now, he would never receive a death sentence. No Buncombe jury has sentenced anyone to death since 2000.… Read More

NC, let’s take a hint from Washington: It’s time to end the racist death penalty

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Last week, Washington became the 20th state to end the death penalty after its Supreme Court ruled that capital punishment is arbitrary and racially biased. If those are reasons to outlaw the death penalty, then it is surely time for the North Carolina death penalty to go. If anything, the death penalty in NC is more racist, more arbitrary, and threatens the lives of far more people.… Read More

Why most of N.C.’s death row inmates never should have gotten the death penalty

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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.… Read More

Remaining human in the face of an inhumane death penalty system

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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. … Read More

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the more you know about a defendant, the less likely you are to support his or her execution; the more you know about the criminal justice system, the less likely you are to support anyone's execution