Commentary

The following statement was released this afternoon by the group NC Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty:

NC Conservatives Concerned Urges Governor McCrory to Veto Bill Eliminating Transparency in Executions

For Immediate Release
August 4, 2015

Contact: Ballard Everett
(919) 272-0297

North Carolina Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty (NC CCADP) urges Governor Pat McCrory to veto House Bill 774 “Restoring Proper Justice Act,” legislation aimed at taking transparency out of the way in which our state executes individuals.

“This legislation is bad policy for North Carolina. Conducting executions is the most extreme expression of the state’s power and should be done in an open and transparent process,” said Ballard Everett, coordinator for NC CCADP. “Making secret the way in which our state obtains the drugs needed and conducts executions practically guarantees that NC will join states around the country that have seen horribly botched executions.”

“Even the bill’s sponsors have admitted passage of H774 would invite more costly litigation,” said Everett. “Why then are they committed to wasting more tax payer dollars by creating more issues that have to be litigated in courts?”

Should executions resume, Governor Pat McCrory will be the final reviewer of death row cases slated for execution. If the Governor signs H774, he will be facing what will likely be a problematic execution process that will inevitably lead to horribly botched executions. Everett said, “Gov. McCrory should not be placed in this position by the General Assembly. The process should be open and transparent to ensure that any execution is carried out correctly and with dignity for all of those involved.”

“We urge the Governor to veto this legislation. If our state is going to engage in capital punishment, we cannot do so by cloaking the execution process in secrecy.” Everett said

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News

wilmington10In a ruling that can only be described as cold and literal, a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals ruled today that the estates of four of the ten defendants wrongfully convicted for burning down a grocery store in Wilmington in 1971 amidst school desegregation violence there were not entitled to compensation under the state’s wrongful conviction law.

The “Wilmington 10″ — nine African-American men and one white woman — spent years in jail before Gov. Jim Hunt commuted their sentences in 1977.

A 60 Minutes investigation exposed their trial as a farce. The prosecutor made up facts, coerced witnesses, and hid crucial evidence from the defense team that the law required him to turn over.

And a federal appeals court threw out the convictions in 1980 after even more evidence of prosecutorial misconduct surfaced and three key witnesses recanted their testimony, admitting they had committed perjury at the original trial.

Years later, the NC NAACP released newly-discovered additional evidence of unfairness during the original trial, including notes showing the prosecutor lied to a judge to get a mistrial so he could try the case again with another jury and notes evidencing racial profiling during jury selection, with notations from the prosecutor including “KKK? Good” next to one potential juror’s name and “Uncle Tom” beside another.

In late December 2012, then-Gov. Beverly Perdue issued pardons of innocence for all ten, including posthumous pardons for four who had since died —  Jerry Jacobs, Anne Shepard, Connie Tindall, and Joe Wright.

The six living members of the Wilmington 10 along with the estates of the four others then filed petitions with the  Industrial Commission for compensation due under state law to persons erroneously convicted of felonies.

The state awarded the six living members full compensation, but refused to give the estates of the other four anything, saying that the statute clearly and unambiguously applied only to persons who had been convicted of a crime, imprisoned, and granted a pardon of innocence before petitioning the State for compensation.

Today, the Court of Appeals agreed and ruled further that the right to compensation accrues at the time the “person” receives a pardon.  Since the four defendants whose estates had sued were not alive at the time of their pardons, they acquired no right to compensation under the law.

“We acknowledge plaintiffs’ assertion that ‘when an innocent person has had his or her liberty and a portion of his or her life wrongfully taken, . . . that harm lives on after death – especially in the lives of affected loved ones,’” Court of Appeals Judge Lucy Inman wrote for the court. “However, we are required by law to apply [the law] as it is written. These policy considerations are more appropriately raised with the legislative branch”

The full decision is here.

 

News

Citing feelings that “DPI was never in love with charter schools,” last month Senator Jerry Tillman (R-Randolph) gutted a House bill penned by Rep. Charles Jeter (R-Mecklenburg) and used it to put forth his own bid to move the Office of Charter Schools out of the Department of Public Instruction and to the State Board of Education.

The House’s reaction to that chess move? A resounding ‘no.’

Rep. Jeter asked his fellow House members Tuesday not to concur with the Senate’s proposal—and they voted unanimously against concurrence, sending the bill to a conference committee to sort through the disagreement.

Tillman, who has previously expressed frustration over what he sees as too slow a pace to green light new charter schools, proposed not only moving the charter school office out of DPI, he also sought to tinker yet again with the advisory board that reviews new charter school proposals. Tillman’s version of HB 334 would strip the Governor of his ability to appoint the board’s chair and disallow a sitting State Board of Ed member from being part of the panel.

“We don’t want them ‘loving it up,’” said Tillman of the idea of current State Board of Education members serving on the charter advisory board. His proposal would relegate that person to serving as a nonvoting member and allow the State Board to instead appoint a “charter advocate” to serve.

Sen. Josh Stein (D-Wake) objected to Tillman’s bid last month, raising concerns about the ability of the State Board of Education to exercise proper oversight and monitoring of charter schools.

For more background, read my story, “Senate bill proposes ending DPI control of charter school oversight.”

Commentary, News
Kieran Shanahan discusses conservation hunting with CBS News. (Image:CBSnews.com)

Kieran Shanahan discusses conservation hunting with CBS News. (Image:CBSnews.com)

[This post has been updated with the photo that appears at the bottom.] CBS ran a story last night on the national evening news on the ongoing reaction to the poaching death of a lion known as Cecil in Zimbabwe. The story prominently featured a veteran pursuer of African big game from the United States who described himself as a “conservation hunter.” The hunter in question: Governor McCrory’s former Secretary of Public Safety, current East Carolina University Trustee and long-time conservative activist Kieran Shanahan.

Shanahan, who appeared in the story with the head of an animal he’d apparently killed mounted as a trophy on the wall of his office, told CBS he was “sickened” by poaching he’s seen and claimed to hunt only non-endangered animals under circumstances blessed by relevant African governments.

A Humane Society official, however, refuted Shanahan’s claim about the usefulness of such hunting later in the story:

“But Wayne Pacelle, who is president of the Humane Society of the U.S., said trophy hunters target some of the biggest, most magnificent animals,

which is bad for species health. Creatures that are killed cannot reproduce and pass on their genes to future generations.

‘We don’t see any rationale to kill animals just as a head-hunting exercise,’ Pacelle said. ‘It’s pointless. It’s one thing to kill animals for food. It’s another to kill them just for their heads.'”

Several commenters to the story have also weighed in to dispute Shanahan’s claims. Read More

Commentary

In an interview with the Outer Banks Sentinel, state representative Paul Tine (an unaffiliated lawmaker who votes with the Republican majority) added his voice to the growing chorus of opponents to the McCrory administration’s plan to bring offshore oil and gas drilling to the North Carolina coast:

“It gets difficult to make predictions, especially in the multi-decade process we face…The problem with what we have is [that] this is one of those situations where we’re arguing based on a false set of assumptions. Congress has not authorized revenue sharing for North Carolina…so all this money people think we’re going to get doesn’t exist. [As for] the jobs argument, Norfolk is by far and away the most likely port that will be utilized to support that industry, so the jobs will go mostly to Virginia…So people don’t properly understand the risks. And the rewards are not there. So we have a $1.2 billion economy for tourism which would certainly be disrupted should anything happen…For us, all we get is risk. We get no reward. So hopefully, we can keep them from moving forward.”

In other words, the last thing we need is for the North Carolina and Virginia coasts to start looking like this.