This past week Wake County Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens placed a halt on three executions that had been scheduled to occur in rapid fire succession (one last Friday and two this month). A state law requiring the presence of a doctor at all executions was found to be in been conflict with the recent North Carolina Medical Board decision that a doctor's participation is a violation of medical ethics. The Council of State is now charged, at their upcoming meeting, to address this issue, which may result in some creative loophole around the Medical Board's decision…but, hopefully not.
The current situation is a great opportunity for lawmakers to really discuss the death penalty and the many flaws in the system. Ideally, such a discussion would be preceded by implementation of a formal, two-year moratorium so that the discussion might actually have time for serious study and reflection.
Obviously, many factors support a closer look at current death penalty laws. One factor is that at least 37 people on death row had lawyers that would not, or do not meet today's minimum standards of qualification. Another is the growing numbers of exonerated, wrongly convicted people on death row under the current death penalty laws.
Instead of attempting to place some kind of convoluted bandage on the current doctor dilemma, the Council of State should simply adopt a formal moratorium so that all the current flaws and discrepancies can be evaluated, and legislation can be changed in a way that will ensure that the system is reliable and fair.