[This post originally appeared on the blog of the NC Center for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.]
N.C. prosecutor who sent five to death row: It’s time to end death penalty
By Kristin Collins
Twenty five years ago, as an assistant district attorney in Forsyth County, Vince Rabil helped put Blanche Taylor Moore on death row. Today, Rabil says it is time to end the death penalty and calls Moore — a frail 82-year-old still sitting on death row — “a living monument to the failure of a vanishing legal remedy.”
In an op-ed published Sunday, Rabil repudiates a punishment that he spent nearly two decades of his career fighting to uphold. In the 1990s, he prosecuted a dozen people for the death penalty and put at least five on death row. Four remain there today.
Rabil believed so strongly in the death penalty that, in 1997, he became the first prosecutor in the country to seek death for a drunk driver. “This will seriously make everyone stop after the first drink or the second one,” he said at the time.
Now, Rabil says the death penalty is a broken system that costs taxpayers dearly, threatens innocent defendants, and does little to comfort the grieving families of victims. He says life with no possibility of parole is a more appropriate replacement.
Rabil’s transformation reveals how much our state has evolved since the 1990s, when a blind faith in the capital punishment system allowed us to sentence dozens of people a year to die. This year, N.C. juries didn’t hand down a single death sentence, executions remained on hold for a ninth year, and public opposition to the death penalty reached its highest point since the 1970s. In North Carolina, even a Republican legislator came out against capital punishment.
At the same time, Rabil’s courageous stance against the death penalty marks a turning point in North Carolina. While many prosecutors, current and former, no doubt have serious concerns about the death penalty, Rabil is the first in our state to take such a public stand.
We applaud Rabil for speaking the truth that so many others are afraid to admit.