Local News

Voters' Voice: Views About Death Penalty Not As Clear-Cut

Posted September 9, 2004

— Polls consistently show that most North Carolinians support the death penalty, but when it comes to putting those executions on hold, it is not so clear-cut.

When supporters of a two-year moratorium gathered in the spring, they released a statewide poll that showed 63 percent of North Carolinians favor at least a temporary halt to the death penalty while 28 percent opposed the moratorium. Now, a Voter's Voice Poll, indicates almost the opposite. Only 36 percent favor the moratorium versus 54 percent opposed.

"I don't know why the inconsistencies," said Beth McAllister, of the N.C. Coalition for a Moratorium.

McAllister said conflicting poll numbers will not stop her group's mission to cease executions while the state re-evaluates the justice system.

"We have killed innocent people," she said.

Moratorium supporters point to Alan Gell and Darryl Hunt, both wrongly convicted, as examples of injustice. Death penalty backers point to them as well.

"When the two came down and testified to the General Assembly that we need to stop the death penalty, they had already been released," said Rep. Sam Ellis, R-Wake. "That's not an indication that there's a failure. That's an indication the system is working the way it ought to work."

Ellis said it is no surprise the group has worked longer to pass the measure than the two-year moratorium they seek.

"I believe it's a disguised attempt to ultimately eliminate something that the people of North Carolina have overwhelmingly reaffirmed their support for," Ellis said.

"People of faith who lead that movement, I'm sure, will start all over again. We have another legislative session in January," McAllister said.

It may be a very political issue, but the moratorium should not play a role in the governor's race. Both Patrick Ballantine and Gov. Mike Easley support the death penalty and oppose the moratorium.

The Voter's Voice Poll draws sharp distinctions based on race. Thirty-percent of white voters in the poll favor the death penalty moratorium compared with 71 percent of black voters. African-Americans make up the majority of North Carolina's death row inmates. Officials say 106 inmates on death row are African American while 71 inmates are white.

The

Voters' Voice Poll

is a project by WRAL-TV, the

News & Observer

and WUNC radio.

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