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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.

 

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

Last week, NC Policy Watch distributed a Progressive Voices essay authored by Gretchen Engel, Executive Director of the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, in which Engel was highly critical of the North Carolina state crime lab and the failure of officials to adequately review the cases of hundreds of defendants who were convicted in whole or in part upon evidence from the long-troubled lab. You can read the piece by clicking here.

Earlier this week, current lab director, former state judge Joseph John, Sr. sent us a lengthy reply to Engel’s piece. Today, we offer John’s letter along with a response from Engel. Both appear below. Read More

Lethal injectionIn keeping with its practice of reversing progress and bucking national trends toward saner and more progressive public policies, the state Senate will take up a bill this morning to repeal the Racial Justice Act and jump-start executions. If the bill advances, however, it will do so over the objections of a group of more than 70 college and university professors who have delivered a letter to lawmakers spelling out the flaws in the legislation.

Meanwhile, one of the professors in the group — Appalachian State criminologist Matthew Robinson – authored an op-ed in the Winston-Salem Journal yesterday that does an excellent job of explaining why the proposed legislation is counterproductive. 

“As a professional criminologist who has written numerous articles and books on the factors that produce crimes like murder and how to prevent them, I am confident that the death penalty is a distraction from policies that actually work. So we should stop wasting our time “tinkering with the machinery of death” and get to the hard work of finally getting serious about instituting more effective crime prevention policies.”

You can read Robinson’s entire essay by clicking here.

North Carolina hasn’t had an execution since 2006, and state Sen. Thom Goolsby wants to change that.

Goolsby, a Wilmington Republican, filed a bill today that seeks to repeal what’s left of the Racial Justice Act and restart executions in North Carolina.

state Sen. Thom Goolsby

state Sen. Thom Goolsby

North Carolina’s death row has 152 people on it, and the numbers of people sentenced to death has lessened in recent years. No one was sentenced to death by a North Carolina jury last year, though three people were in 2011. The longest resident of death row, Wayne Laws, has been awaiting execution since 1985.

Goolsby said at a press conference held Wednesday afternoon that the defacto moratorium the state had after a series of legal appeals needs to end.

“It is the law of our land,” Goolsby said.

Goolsby’s bill, Senate Bill 306, may not be able to immediately restart the execution process The Racial Justice Act, the first of its kind when it passed in 2009, initially intended to allow death row inmates to seek relief if racial bias existed in their case, by using statistics and anecdotal evidence. But that was weakened significantly in 2012, when the state legislature, at the urging of elected district attorney, curtailed the law by saying that the race of the victim could not be a factor and that racial statistics need to be restricted to the county or judicial district where the crime happened.

Nearly all of the 152 death row inmates filed appeals under the Racial Justice Act, and those appeals would still be able to proceed as part of those legal procedures, Goolsby said.

The North Carolina courts are also still reviewing the lethal-injection method of execution in the state, said Gerda Stein, a spokeswoman for the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, a Durham-based law group that represents death row inmates in appeals. The state’s appeals courts would need to make their rulings before executions can resume, she said.

Public sentiment is also not behind the death penalty, Stein said.

A poll conducted in early February by  Public Policy Polling found that 68 percent of North Carolinians favored repealing the death penalty as long as the offender is given lifetime sentence in prison without the chance of parole and had to work and pay restitution to victim’s families.

(Click here to see the PPP poll results.)