Commentary

Two new “must reads” on the death penalty (Video)

Kristin Collins of the Center for Death Penalty Litigation has two new “must read” posts on the Center for Alternatives to the Death Penalty blog.

The first highlights the outrageous story of Duane Buck — a man whom the state of Texas has been trying to execute for two decades even though his original death sentence was based in part on the testimony of an “expert” that Buck was more dangerous to society because he is black. Remarkably, it took 20 years and unceasing efforts of Buck’s lawyers to get this blatantly racist sentence overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court two weeks ago. As Collins notes:

“The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Buck’s case is the latest in a series of decisions condemning racism in death penalty trials. Last year, the court overturned the death sentence of Timothy Foster after evidence showed prosecutors had purposefully removed African-Americans from the all-white jury that decided his sentence. Foster was one of three high court decisions in the past decade condemning the pervasive practice of striking black jurors from death penalty cases.

Despite the Supreme Court’s clear messages, states – including North Carolina – can’t seem to accept that death sentences tainted by racism are illegal.

In Texas, the state fought to execute Buck for two decades. And in North Carolina, the state continues to push for executions despite clear evidence that black jurors have been illegally denied the right to decide life-and-death cases.

An exhaustively-researched, peer-reviewed study found that, in capital trials between 1990 and 2010, qualified black jurors were more than twice as likely as whites to be struck  by N.C. prosecutors.”

Collins goes on to explain the tragic fact that North Carolina’s repeal of the Racial Justice Act has only made cases like Duane Buck’s more likely in our state.

The more hopeful of the two articles highlights a new video from the Center for Death Penalty Litigation (see below) that was released recently in the aftermath of a Wake County jury’s decision to reject efforts of prosecutors to impose the death penalty on a man named Nathan Holden.

It has been nearly a decade since a Wake jury agreed to send a person to death row, and that’s not for prosecutors’ lack of effort. They have now tried and failed to get the death penalty seven times in a row.

How many times will Wake prosecutors have to hear the word “No” before they stop wasting their efforts seeking the death penalty, which adds greatly to the expense of a trial? It’s clear that Wake citizens no longer believe the death penalty is necessary to punish even the worst crimes, not when life without parole is the alternative.

Let’s hope the answer is “not much longer.”

CDPL: Public Safety Experts Condemn the Death Penalty from rhonda klevansky on Vimeo.

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