Jurors sent an innocent man to death row. Now they ask: “Where did we go wrong?”

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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.… Read More

An execution’s aftermath: “I watched him die 15 years ago, and I still talk to him sometimes”

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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.… Read More

N.C. Supreme Court overturns death sentence for disabled man

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Even with the number of death sentences slowed to a trickle, our state still can’t get it right in death penalty cases. The N.C. Supreme Court has just overturned the sentence of of a death row prisoner from Forsyth County, saying there was ample evidence that he had intellectual disabilities and mental illness that should have moved the jury to spare him from execution.… Read More

This keeps happening: Wake jury rejects death penalty for 9th time in a row

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It’s starting to feel like Groundhog Day in Wake County. Every year begins with a capital trial, and every year, the jury chooses life. Wake is the only county in the state where a defendant has been tried capitally every year for the past three years. We’re hoping that, next year, we can skip this annual ritual.… Read More

Time to move on: Calls for death penalty fall flat in N.C.

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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 As we look to 2018, let’s skip the outdated death penalty rhetoric and start looking for solutions that actually make people safer — like properly staffing prisons and supplying guards with working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.… Read More

A life condemned: Remembering my client who died on death row

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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.… Read More

A juror’s dilemma: The wrenching job of deciding another person’s right to live

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A little-known aspect of the death penalty is its impact on jurors who must make life-and-death decisions without any of their usual support networks. For jurors, seeking trusted advice and doing independent research is an understandable impulse — but it’s also against the law.
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Keith Tharpe is not an anomaly. Lots of death row inmates have been called at “n___r” at their trials.

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Last week, the Supreme Court halted the execution of Keith Tharpe in Georgia because of a juror’s admission that he voted for death because he believed Tharpe was a “n—-r.” It might be tempting to believe this case was just an anomaly. But Keith Tharpe is far from the only defendant to be sentenced to death by a deeply racist juror.… Read More

In the fight on crime, death is far more costly than life

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Almost every time people discuss the death penalty on social media, at least one person chimes in with this opinion: We should execute people because it’s too expensive to keep them in prison for life. But the truth is, the death penalty costs far more than life without parole. Please read this post and help us spread the truth about the wasteful, inefficient death penalty.… Read More

Why North Carolina’s death penalty is not for the “worst of the worst”

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Prosecutors might tell you they need the death penalty to punish the “worst of the worst.” But in practice, that’s not how the death penalty is used in North Carolina. Our state spends millions each year to pursue death sentences that are arbitrary and unnecessary, and uses the threat of death as a negotiation tactic to pressure defendants to accept plea bargains — sometimes putting innocent lives on the line.… 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