The Council of State kept North Carolina's ongoing game of political tag in motion this morning by approving a revised "protocol" for the implementation of death sentences by lethal injection. The Council voted 6-3 (Insurance Commissioner Jim Long (at right), Secretary of State Elaine Marshall and Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson were the "no" votes). According to Governor Easley (who described the present situation as a "moratorium"), the Council's "ministerial" action gets the matter back before Judge Stephens and sets up further discussions between the Attorney General's office and the Medical Board (the protocol requires participation by a medical doctor, the Medical Board says doc's can't participate). Most members who spoke, however, seemed to grasp the fact that any sort of common ground between the two positions will be hard to find and that additional protracted litigation is likely. Several expressed the opinion that the issue cannot ultimately be resolved until the legislature weighs in.
Other interesting notes from the meeting:
-Commissioner Long (with the support of Secretary Marshall) argued that Judge Stephens had misread the statutes and that the Council had no business even taking the matter up.
-Both Lt. Gov. Perdue and Marshall were out of the country and participated by phone. Nobody that I heard said where Perdue was. Marshall was in Moldova (which apparently doesn't permit the death penalty under any circumstances).
-Despite having endorsed the idea of a moratorium yesterday, Perdue was virtually silent throughout the meeting.
-Treasurer Moore spoke a couple of times — once to ask Easley his opinion and another to say that the Council was a lousy venue to debate the issue since they were prohibited from hearing testimony, etc… from the public.
-Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry was the most vocally anxious to take whatever step was necessary to get executions jump-started.
-At the end of the meeting, Marshall tried to get the group to consider a motion to urge the legislature to take the matter up and to direct the Attorney General to enter into negotiations with the Medical Board. The Guv objected to the second part for fear of "tying the Attorney General's hands" so it was removed. Part one, for what it was worth, passed unanimously.