Local News

Execution Of N.C. Prisoner On Hold As High Court Debates Lethal Injection

Posted January 8, 2004

— The state's first execution of the year is on hold right now. The U.S. Supreme Court is deciding whether a lethal injection, used for decades, is cruel and unusual punishment.

Dayle Rowsey is scheduled to die early Friday morning for shooting a convenience store clerk in Alamance County. When Rowsey's family arrived at Central Prison Thursday, they knew it could be their last and only chance to say goodbye. While Wayne Rowsey said his brother is ready to accept his fate, he does not think he deserves to die.

"I don't feel taking someone's life, in all honesty -- no matter the crime, is right," he said.

In a legal brief, state attorneys argued against the defense claim that lethal injection will cause an excruciatingly painful and protracted death. Like many states, North Carolina uses three drugs -- thiopental sodium to put the inmate to sleep, potassium chloride to stop the heart and then pancuronium bromide to paralyze the body.

Death penalty opponents, including the executive director of the State Board of Pharmacy, believe the anesthetic can wear off before Rowsey dies. Some attorneys even argue that the deadly cocktail to euthanize pets is more humane.

"Our department feels that the process we use in consultation with medical professionals, we believe that we are doing does not cause undo suffering," said Pam Walker, of the N.C. Department of Correction.

The family member of a murder victim told WRAL Thursday he felt the cruel and unusual punishment argument is a legal cheap shot to delay justice. If the execution is stayed, most attorneys do not expect death row to empty. They anticipate high court justices to rule on a test case in a few months. They could just instruct states to come up with a different set of drugs for lethal injection.



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