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Death penalty(Cross-posted from the blog of the NC Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty).

By Kristin Collins

Yesterday, a California court confirmed what we have known in North Carolina for years: The death penalty is so dysfunctional as to be not just unconstitutional, but futile.

The ruling said of a system in which inmates sit on death row for decades, and only a tiny percentage of those sentenced to death are ever executed:

“… for too long now, the promise has been an empty one … It has resulted in a system in which arbitrary factors, rather than legitimate ones like the nature of the crime or the date of the death sentence, determine whether an individual will actually be executed.”

Lest anyone offer the “simple” solution of executing people more quickly, let’s pause to remember the more than 140 innocent people who have been freed from death row. Seven of them were in North Carolina, and some spent more than a decade on death row before their innocence was recognized.

North Carolina’s system is no different from California’s. Since 1977, when the modern death penalty began, nearly 400 men and women have been sentenced to death, and only 43 have been executed. Read More

Willie WombleHow many times is a North Carolinian previously convicted of murder going to have to be found to be innocent before it’s universally acknowledged that the death penalty is a hopeless relic of a bygone age?

Let’s hope today’s unanimous recommendation by the state Innocence Inquiry Commission that Willie Henderson Womble was wrongfully convicted 38 years ago for a murder in Granville County adds more fuel to the fire. The decision provides more powerful evidence that our justice system remains hugely flawed and that it is simply impossible to guarantee that our state does not commit the most heinous of all imaginable acts by a government — i.e. the execution of an innocent human being.

And while it’s obviously true that Mr. Womble did not receive the death penalty, it’s also clear that he has been forced to endure something just short of it with the loss of 38 years of freedom. Moreover, as Mr. Womble’s case also makes clear, there’s every reason to believe that numerous innocent humans have been executed in all of our names down though the decades.

The bottom line: Womble’s case once again highlights a deplorable reality that must be brought to an end and set right as soon as possible.

ICYMI, the Sunday Wilmington Star News argues forcefully that a speedy resumption of executions in North Carolina (as is urged by their hometown Senator, Thom Goolsby) makes no sense at all.

“Polls show that most Americans still support selective use of the death penalty. To many, the “eye for an eye” approach is just punishment for those who commit murder and leave victims’ families to forever grieve. About 60 percent of respondents in an October Gallup poll said they support capital punishment, compared with 35 percent opposed. But that support was the lowest in 40 years. A poll of North Carolinians by the liberal, Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling found that 70 percent of residents oppose the death penalty if life without parole is an option.

Regardless of whether they support capital punishment in principle, many Americans have trouble accepting that the possible execution of an innocent person is a necessary by-product of the justice system.”

What the paper might have also noted is that since executions were halted almost eight years ago, North Carolina has seen a significant drop in its murder rate. So much for the tired old “deterrence” argument (as if the people troubled enough to commit murders rationally contemplate their potential punishments before acting).

You can read the entire editorial by clicking here.

 

The Associated Press reported yesterday that there is more more evidence of discrimination against Latinos by the long-troubled Alamance County sheriff’s office:

“Two university professors hired by the U.S. Department of Justice to analyze traffic stops by the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office say statistical data conclusively shows deputies there are racially profiling Latino drivers….

John Lamberth, retired chair of the Department of Psychology at Temple University, concluded that Johnson’s deputies cited Latinos for violations at a rate more than six times higher than for whites. He said the statistical odds were far less than one in a million that such a sizable racial disparity could occur by chance.

‘The observed disparities in … traffic enforcement are larger than any I have previously observed at a law enforcement agency in the United States,’ wrote Lamberth, who has testified as an expert in numerous court cases.”

Let’s hope that a settlement can be reached in the case in the near future and that Alamance can start enforcing laws fairly like the vast majority of law enforcement agencies.

You can read the entire story by clicking here.

First published on PolicyMic.com

A recent Gallup poll showed that the U.S. is losing its taste for capital punishment. Make no mistake: A majority of Americans are still in favor of state-sponsored homicide, but the 60% of people who claimed that they approve of capital punishment is an all-time low. Year after year, the death penalty is falling out of favor in this country. One segment of the population that is growing in opposition of the death penalty are those who have conservative values.

The poll stated that 81% of Republicans support capital punishment, but even that number was lower than it has been in the past. An important part of the change in the conservative and libertarian response to the death penalty is young people. The Young Americans for Liberty (YAL), an organization started by the youth coordinator of the presidential campaign of Ron Paul, the Republican Congressman from Texas, is a partner of Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty (CCATDP). In addition to the partnership with YAL, CCATDP attended the Young Republican National Federation’s Convention in Alabama.

Just last week, Kansas Republican Chase Blasi published an editorial explaining why capital punishment is counter to conservative positions. Read More