Local Politics

Stay of N.C. Executions to Stay Awhile

Posted August 14, 2007

Death Row, Death Penalty, Execution

— Almost a year has passed since North Carolina carried out its last execution, and observers say no resolution to legal disputes over the death penalty is in sight.

Six executions scheduled for earlier this year have been put on hold indefinitely because of uncertainty over a physician's role in the process and the protocol the state follows to carry out a lethal-injection death sentence.

"It will be a while before we get it resolved," said Senior Administrative Law Judge Fred Morrison Jr.

Meanwhile, 162 men and four women sit on death row at Central Prison in Raleigh.

Morrison issued a ruling last week calling for state officials to review the execution protocol, including hearing from death-row inmates, to ensure prisoners don't die in pain, which would violate their constitutional rights.

"(I looked at) whether they could feel undue suffering before the drugs are put in their system to be sure they're unconscious, and I wasn't assured of that," he said.

Gov. Mike Easley responded to Morrison's ruling by saying the execution issue doesn't belong in front of the Council of State, although state law requires the group, which includes Easley, Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue and other statewide elected officials, to set the protocol to be followed in executions.

"It sounds like Council of State is going to ignore it, so actually I think their actions push us further from a resolution on the issue one way or another," said attorney Hardy Lewis, who represents death-row inmates.

"It would be nice if there were the political will (to settle the issue)," Lewis said.

Morrison said the Council of State legally must review the protocol – even if the members don't change it – because of his ruling.

State Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry, another Council of State member, said Tuesday that she wants the protocol issue resolved so the state can resume executions.

Morrison's 15-page ruling also criticized the North Carolina Medical Board for its policy threatening to discipline any doctors that participate in executions. The policy says taking part in an execution would violate a physician's code of ethics.

State law requires that a physician be present at every execution, and the medical board policy prompted a judge to stay the executions of several inmates because the law and the policy conflicted with each other.

"I don't think its unethical for a doctor to be present and to assure that an inmate is unconscious," Morrison said.

North Carolina is one of 11 states where executions are on hold. Concerns in other states range from general worries about the death penalty and possible inmate innocence to issues with lethal injection.


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  • grumpyhermit Aug 16, 2007

    It would be fine with me to put murderers to death, preferably with pain & suffering.

    But I am against the death penalty because so many people on death rows around the country have recently been found innocent.

    I am in favor of life in prison, no parole.

  • M1911-A1 Aug 15, 2007

    Bring back long-drop hangings. That was probably the most humane method of execution. The convict falls through a trap door and their neck breaks and there is immediate unconsciousness. Medical experts have said that there is no pain involved in this type of execution. Way better than the electric chair or lethal injection, and cheaper.

  • alx Aug 15, 2007

    once the stay is lifted they should begin injecting those on death row once an hour until they clean the thing out! the families of victims shouldnt be victimized more by our legislature

  • AM is Back to Being Immaculate Aug 15, 2007

    I won't state my opinion on the death penalty but I will say that it cost less to keep someone locked up for life than it does to put them on death row.

    I know this not only from proven research but I also work for the gov't and I deal with death penalty cases.

  • smitty Aug 15, 2007

    HP, I have researched it thoroughly, there is no such thing as free legal representation. Either the defendant pays for it, or the taxpayer pays for it.

  • dohicky Aug 15, 2007

    Needing a doctor is just plain stupid to start with but that is par for politicians. Dead is dead and whether or not they are in pain should not matter as long they are not being tortured on purpose.
    If someone is guilty beyond a doubt of murder or rape they should go ahead and get it over. If there is a doubt that is another story. Should be an eye witness.

    In all honesty we have seen many a murderer sit on death row or be set loose on society to rape and kill again when there was no doubt that they were guilty. This is a crime against society.

  • YoucanthandletheTRUTH Aug 15, 2007

    Why can't the citizens of the state vote on the death penalty? Leaving it to those with political agendas and little ethics themselves is ridiculous. We are the ones who suffer when the murderers are left to sit in prison for life (paying for these people to live) and possibly get paroled...because a lady said she felt surgery, we want to give these people more rights? That has nothing to do with the situation of capital punishment. The criminals took away the rights of their victims; they should lose all of theirs too. Not to mention they should be killed within a year of getting sentenced...sitting on deathrow is ridiculous. I thought justice was supposed to be swift!!! Having appeal after appeal is not swift or just for the victim.

  • fredssmithisnotmysenator Aug 15, 2007

    talkabout - Cherie Berry is not the commissioner of elevators. Such inaccuracies will certainly get you disciplined by the WRAL police.

  • papa jim Aug 15, 2007

    let's just change the way we execute the condemned felon by just chopping off their heads like some other countries do. that way would not need a doctor to see if there're dead

  • ladyblue Aug 15, 2007

    I think Cherie Berry is just as capable as Elizabeth Dole to make such a ruling. It seems to me they could pick doctors to make this decision. I have been unconscious and trust me you don't feel anything. I don't know what the big issue is. None of the victims that they murdered had any pain medicine before they were killed. Anyone ever had to had potassium IV'd. That is kinda hurtful.