Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Time to rev up N.C.'s executions? No

It's time to juice up the needle. No more slacking off on sending the N.C. death-row inmates to the death chamber for their lethal injection.

That's the thinking behind a new bill introduced Wednesday by New Hanover Republican senator Thom Goolsby. Goolsby's Senate Bill 306 would repeal the 2009 N.C. Racial Justice Act, a law state Republicans already gutted last year. The changes drastically reduced the ability of judges to use general statistics and data to decide whether a death row inmate was given the death penalty because of his or her race. Goolsby gave his support for that revamped bill lawmakers approved, saying then that he didn't "trust statisticians or people who come in after the fact to find some way to get coldblooded killers off of death row."

But that wasn't good enough and now he's calling for the law's total revocation. His bill also calls for doctors, nurses and pharmacists to participate in executions without fear of punishment from state licensing boards, something the courts have already declared permissible. And it also requires a somewhat ghoulish death watch by lawmakers with mandated updates to the General Assembly on the status of post-conviction death penalty cases, and on the training of executioners.

This editorial board supported toughening the RJA. The amended law narrowed which statistics could be considered valid and it put a higher burden on inmates to show discrimination in their individual cases. But this board has also noted that the law has a simple and justifiable premise. Statistics show decades of racial bias in death penalty cases and judges should be able to consider that history in some fashion when reviewing a sentence. The revamped law allows that within narrower limits. Defendants can use statistics they they think prove racial bias from a time span 10 years before a slaying and two years after a sentence. Before there had been no time limit. The revamped law also says statistics alone cannot prove race was a significant factor in a death row inmate's conviction or sentence. Statistics also are now limited to conduct of prosecutors near where the murder occurred, rather than anywhere in the entire state as the previous law allowed.

The impetus for Goolsby's bill though is less about the particulars of the Racial Justice Act than about an ideological stand on the death penalty. He forthrightly says he just wants to get these state killings back in action. “We have a moral obligation to ensure death-row criminals convicted of the most heinous crimes imaginable finally face justice,” he said Wednesday. “Victims’ families have suffered for far too long. It’s time to stop the legal wrangling and bring them the peace and closure they deserve.”

This board agrees that those convicted of the most heinous crimes must be punished appropriately. But in this state some convicted of the most heinous murders do not end up on death row, and others whose crimes are arguably less heinous do. 

In 2006, for instance, when Samuel Flippen was executed for killing his 2-year-old stepdaughter, David Crespi of Charlotte was sentenced to life for murdering his 5-year-old twin daughters. Flippen was the last person executed in North Carolina, by the way. In 2010 in two highly publicized heinous crimes, Demario Atwater was sentenced to life for the murder of UNC student Eve Carson and former Marine Cesar Laurean was sentenced to life for the murder of pregnant Marine Maria Lauterbach.

Prosecutors decide to seek the death penalty in some cases and not in others for any number of reasons. Juries decide to give the death penalty in similar fashion. The heinous nature of the crime is not always the deciding factor.

Additionally, North Carolina has a troubling track record of wrongful murder convictions, convictions that have only been overturned in recent years as inmates have gained access to DNA that can prove their innocence.

This board has said before and repeats that a better way to deal with the problematic application of the death penalty is to stop using it and go to a system of life without the possibility of parole. That is the mandated sentence even if an inmate can prove discrimination under the Racial Justice Act. This is no get-of- jail-free card as opponents of RJA had once claimed. 

North Carolina then would be in line with the changing national attitude. Thirty-three states have the death penalty and 17 have abolished it. But more and more are moving toward abolition, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. So far this year legislators in several states have introduced legislation to either abolish or reform the death penalty. Among them are lawmakers in Alabama, Colorado, Kentucky, Maryland, New Hampshire and Oregon. Texas, which has recorded the largest number of executions annually, is also considering reforms and an Innocence Commission to deal with wrongful convictions. 

Even with the death penalty in place, only nine states carried out death sentences last year, equaling the fewest number of states to do so in 20 years. More than half the nation's states, 29, have not carried out an execution in five years. The 43 executions in 2012 was 56 percent less than the number of executions in the peak year of 1999. Five states in five years have abandoned the death penalty.

Instead of trying to restart the state killing industry, North Carolina should join those states abandoning it. It's too often unfairly administered even when race is not a factor. 

10 comments:

Ghoul said...

How did I know this was written by Fannie before i got to the bottom. Hey Fannie, death is the deterrent, and in the words of your Savior, BHO, you lost we won. Get over it.

silicon28 said...

To Ghoul:

If the death penalty is the deterrent you claim, where is the research or statistical study to support your claim?

We've got more than 50 years of hard evidence to prove you're wrong and just blowing more of your usual smoke here...

Come on... show us what you got...

blockhead said...

I am ambivalent about the death penalty. I neither support nor oppose it. I see both sides of the issue. I am not a racist. I am white, but worked in the civil rights movement of the '60s and '70s. Now, with that said...

Contrary to the editorial board's position, we are executing too few blacks. Here's why:

If you examine actual executions in North Carolina, since they resumed in 1984, we have executed 27 whites and 13 blacks. So, nearly twice as many whites as blacks have been executed. Now, though fallible, FBI statistics show as many as 70% of murders (that's the only crime for which we execute) are committed by blacks. So, even with a margin of error for the statistics, blacks commit a vastly disproportionate number of murders, yet are executed at only half or less the rate for white murderers. I can still make an argument that discrimination is involved, but not the sort you imagine. Since nearly all murders are of the same race, I would argue that courts and society place a much higher value on the life of a white victim than one who's black. The source for all these statistics is the N.C. Department of Correction, except for the state FBI figure.

Wiley Coyote said...

Statistics show decades of racial bias in death penalty cases and judges should be able to consider that history in some fashion when reviewing a sentence.

Okay Fannie. This is 2013.

How far back in the past do we need to go to say enough is enough when it comes to using that past to stop what is going on in the present?

1950? 1900? 1850?

As I said, this is 2013....aren't we in the enlightened age now where color makes no difference, but rather the crime?

Ettolrahc said...

Only one case was not sent back for the racial justice act. And that was due to the request of the person saying they were guilty.

So it is good we had every case, except one placed under the cloud of saying those former jurors were all racist.

Keep that in mind next time you are on jury duty.

Sam said...

I quit reading this paper a couple of months ago when the starting charging the $99 fee. Tonight, I just popped in for a quick look to see if the fee had improved the product.
Looks like nothing has changed. Paper still stinks. Fannie and the board are still hard core left bordering on socialists.

Skippy said...

This coming from a sycophant that voted for a man that voted against The Baby Born Alive Act not once, not twice, but three times. Because she is compassionate and cares about justice of course..

A 2007 special report released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics confirm between 8,000-9,000 black murders happen every year in which 93% is black on black murder, no mention of "Marines" murdering blacks here Fannie.

Get back to us when all of the sudden you become hyper concerned about this appalling stat.

Shamash said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shamash said...

Why do black people love their murderers so much?

Is this genetic or cultural?

It seems like a genocidal death wish to me.

Or maybe self-hatred and loathing.

We all know who commits the disproportionate number of murders and who they murder.

BUT FORGET ABOUT THEM.

They've made their bed, now let them lie in it.

Enjoy those drive-by's, y'all...

As a white person, can I opt out of this brainwashed liberal nonsense and have all the white murderers executed?

At least let MY PEOPLE live free.

Is that a deal?

Please execute more murdering honkeys.

We won't mind. Honestly.

Please show some "cultural sensitivity" and grant us this request.

You can set your black murders free if you wish, in return for this favor.

Because we all know who they're most likely to murder.

cooldela1966 said...

I will agree to stop executions if we abandon abortion at the same time. At least those convicted to the death penalty got a trial. Babies don't even get the chance of a trial even if the trial is rigged. Babies deserve equal treatment.