Local News

Death Penalty up for Debate at Cary Forum

Posted April 24, 2007
Updated April 30, 2007

Death Row, Death Penalty, Execution

— Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby and others debated both sides of the death penalty at a forum in Cary Tuesday night.

There are 166 inmates on Death Row in North Carolina, but recent rulings have brought executions to a standstill. At an event hosted by the Western Wake Democratic Club, people close to the subject shared their thoughts on capital punishment, sometimes telling intensely personal stories.

"I'm here as a victims advocate. I am the brother of a homicide victim,” said panelist Wayne Uber.

Others, like Willoughby, said they carry the weight of the people with their every move.

"If folks are opposed to capital punishment, we ought to ask the legislature to stop it,” he said. “We ought not to take one particular group to give us an ethical opinion that it's wrong."

What Willoughby referred to was a January decision by North Carolina's medical board to adopt a policy that declares it unethical for a physician to participate in executions. That was one point that panelist Dr. Robert Bilbro said he disagrees with.

"It's unethical for doctors to intentionally do harm to their patients,” Bilbro said.

The medical board’s ruling led to a Wake County judge to halt several planned executions. State officials would need to adopt a new protocol to get around the policy. Death penalty supporters argue the legislation limbo is a burden for victims’ families.

"They are just emotionally drained,” said Mel Chilton, a member of a victims’ support group. “It is something that they've been going through for more than 10 years."

But that’s a point that some feel shouldn't affect state policy.

"Most observers say it's a brutalizing effect,” said anti-death penalty advocate Jim French. “The message the death penalty gives is that life is cheap. To some degree, some lives don't mean as much."


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  • Lightfoot Apr 26, 2007


    Interesting observation. While I have known people that were opposed to the death penalty make an exception when some real sickco comes along, I’ve never seen them totally change their philosophy. I’m always interested in WHY someone such as yourself, goes from believer to opposer. Is it really the fear of an innocent getting whacked? I once had a co-worker that was uber-LeftWing. He said he opposed it for that reason. But given a hypothetical situation of himself being a witness to the crime, therefore knowing for sure of the guilt, he STILL opposed the death penalty, citing such silliness as he might couldn’t trust his own eyes. Clearly he was opposed because of other reasons, and the fear for the innocent was just a convenient response. So, what about cases in which guilt is certain (i.e. 14 witnesses, gun in hand, video, confession, God even takes the witness stand for the prosecution, etc.)?

  • superman Apr 25, 2007

    Most of you will recall Michael Peterson from Durham who was given a life sentence for killing his wife-- The last I heard of him he was at a camp--working in the print shop and tutoring GED. He is not locked up-- just a fence around the prison. He gets the same kind of treatment that Martha Stewart and Meg S. Phillips. With a life sentence he gets the same treatment in prison that a person would get from writing bad cheeks, or DUI. He just gets to stay there longer-- but he is not locked in a cell. He gets to stand by the fence and wave at all the people working to support him. A person with a life sentence should at least have to serve it locked up in a cell 24/7-- He is also paid to work in the print shop if he is still assigned there. A life sentence is served the same way a 2 year sentence is served-- no different in his assignment. He can walk around the prison unit all day if he is not working

  • urkiddinme Apr 25, 2007

    I work in a medical facility where inmates come and go all day long. Did you know that we have to "fix" a death row inmate before they can be executed?!? I quite personally don't care if they are experiencing a little bit of back pain while being administered the lethal injection. They had no regard for the pain and suffering of their victims. But what a joy it is to see my tax dollars at work! NOT! There are so many more things in North Carolina that tax money should be going towards, but instead we spend years supporting inmates, paying all their expenses until their appeals run out just so we can kill them! Does anyone else see a problem here? I do understand where those of you come from who are concerned about the few innocents who get convicted, but for those of you bleeding hearts who believe in "rehabilitation" or have a generous moral standard... it would be an injustice to the victim to let the murderer live.

  • sick of You Apr 25, 2007

    Smorgas. I just can't help but think about Jessica Lunsford buried alive inside a trashbag in the ground. I think of her crying and not being able to see her father and mother ever again. It kills me inside to think that there is a person capable of hurting someone to that magnitude. Maybe I am a little bias since I am a cop and I see the dirtbags of society at their very worst. I just want to be honest. There are some people that don't deserve to walk this earth.

  • Smorgas_Of_Borg Apr 25, 2007

    sick, the simplest answer to why I came to oppose the death penalty is that it is the only sentence in our legal system that, once carried out, cannot be corrected if a mistake was shown to have been made. This is precisely what happened in England to bring about a total ban on the death penalty there. One man was convicted of murder, sentenced to death, and hanged. Years later it was discovered that his downstairs neighbor had committed the crime. The outrage was such that no power nor 'morality' on earth could prevent the end of the death penalty there. I would prefer to see us go to a system with life without parole BEFORE an innocent is proven to have been executed. If that ever happens here, the death penalty WILL be history in the USA. Our collective morality would settle for nothing less.

  • sick of You Apr 25, 2007

    Everyone that talks about "compassion" for the murderer on death row needs to take a deep look at thier morals. Did the murderer have compassion on thier victim when they were breathing their last breath? Did the murderer have "compassion" when he/she looked into thier victims tearful and afraid face moments prior to ending thier life? The murderer should have his/her life taken for the crime. Its only fair to the victim and thier families. If you or your family have never been a victim of a homicide then can you really make a fair decision to ending the death penalty?

  • Smorgas_Of_Borg Apr 25, 2007

    In my half century plus on this planet I've noticed that those who support the death penalty (I was one for most of my life) are very passionate and vocal about their support for it. I've seen many arguments and debates over the death penalty and noticed one oddity from them all. No matter how passionate the supporters are, I've never seen anyone who opposed it be convinced by debate or argument to change their point of view. Yet, I have met and know plenty of folks who did support the death penalty but came to oppose it as they aged. It appears that when it comes down to brass tacks, the side that opposes it are winning converts while the supporters are left to be members of their own club, with little prospect of gaining any new members by debate. Perhaps it's true that compassion wins more supporters than anger, vengeance and hatred.

  • Reason Apr 25, 2007

    sick of you, michigan is the only state in the US that does not have a death penalty statute and a murder rate in the top 10. (bureau of justice statistics)
    So much for your deterrent arguement.
    Do some research, or at least have some common sense before posting.

  • Shannon_leigh Apr 25, 2007

    "It is not fair that they suffer unimaginable pain and are robbed from life."
    "Sometimes the victim is a child. Think about it. A murderer cannot give back a life that he/she has taken."
    **Let me just say that I agree with the above statments. It's horrible that these things happen.

    BUT since this is what is said to be justice why don't we also hang, execute, and kill every mother since 1973 that has had an abortion. That is an estimated 38,010,378 CHILDREN killed. WOW!
    Either way regardless of the pros and cons I don't feel it is right for us to take lives into our hands. I also see where everyone else is coming from just don't agree.

  • mvnull Apr 25, 2007

    "Here it is in black and white.

    No death penalty = Triple the crime we already have."

    Triple the crime? Nice made-up statistice. I don't think anyone has a decent idea about the affects on the crime rate, good or bad. Most studies I have seen suggest little, if any deterent affect.

    "Death Penalty = A just punishment fit for the crime."

    And, for those who are wrongly convicted? Have you ever served on a jury? I have, and it isn't a pretty sight. Even the most obvious ploys by the attorneys (defense and prosecution) are accepted by juries. The Gell case is far from the exception. Is it "just" that the rich literally get away with murder, while the indigent are convicted?

    I don't even have to get into the religious reasons, capital punishment fails the accurate, fair, and just criteria.