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Judge: Inmates Can Be Heard on Death Penalty

Posted April 30, 2007

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— A state judge ruled Monday that death-row inmates might have the right to argue the merits of lethal injection with state officials.

Lawyers for five death-row inmates filed suit recently, arguing that the Council of State broke the law when it approved a new execution protocol in February. According to lawyers, the council should have gotten public input, including hearing from condemned inmates, before changing policy.

The new protocol calls for physicians to monitor the condemned inmate's vital signs and to halt an execution if it appears the inmate is in pain.

The Council of State's move came after a Wake County judge halted several planned executions, saying a policy change enacted by the North Carolina Medical Board conflicted with state law requiring the presence of a physician at all executions.

The medical board adopted the new policy in January, saying physicians who participate in executions violate their professional code of ethics. The board threatened to revoke the medical license of any physician involved with an execution.

State law has required physicians to be present at executions to protect a condemned inmate's constitutional guarantee against cruel and unusual punishment.

Lawyers for the state argued that the inmates' lawsuit has no merit and that any wrangling over the death penalty should be heard in superior court.

"This is just a sideshow," Special Deputy Attorney General Don Teeter said. "It needs to go to superior court so we can get to the merits of whether or not lethal injection is an appropriate thing to do."

But Administrative Law Judge Fred Morrison ruled that the inmates might have a point to their argument, and he set a May 21 hearing for both sides to debate the point.

"(The Council of State is) as enlightened a group as I might hope to find," said Hardey Lewis, an attorney representing the inmates. "I'm hopeful, if they'd let us talk to them, we might be able to make some headway."

Lawyers for the inmates also are pursuing other legal avenues to block the death penalty, including tackling the disputed role of a doctor at executions and whether inmates might suffer during lethal injection.


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  • Cyn May 1, 2007

    You can never be 100% sure that 100% of the people on death row are guilty. There are innocent people being released due to DNA on a regular basis. We, as a country, spend alot of legal money on much more frivalous lawsuits. This is life or death. As much as I hate the crimes, I hate the idea of killing an innocent person more. Everyone is so ready to execute, but if there is one innocent one there, it could be you or me. We are not immune from crime that is wrong or punishment that is wrong.

  • luvwhljr.neways May 1, 2007

    The victims didn't have any rights. How does the criminal get to have any??? MARLBOBOGRL_4, please stop screaming at us, we can hear ya. (If you don't know, all caps, means you are yelling and screaming)

  • yacs May 1, 2007

    Blood lust.

  • browneyedgirl May 1, 2007

    Do it like they used to, hang 'em high. I have a huge oak tree they can use.

  • North Carolina Native May 1, 2007

    I want to hear the inmates on the death penalty too... I want to hear them squeeling like girls when they get the needle.

  • kcbsn May 1, 2007

    Did anyone ask the innocent victims if their deaths were slow and painful?

  • superman May 1, 2007

    I worked in corrections for over 30 years-- many of those years at CP. Life is not hard-- and when a person goes to prison the first thing they get is religion. They think that this will help to "look good" for parole or release. All that bible study is just a good "con job" there may be a few exceptions. Most of they say they innocent and didnt do anything. They tell you the same thing if you actually see them break a rule--they refuse to admit their guilt. I say instead of life-- they need the dealth penalty and one appeal and they are gone. They been convicted by 12 people-- our neighbors and friends-- I trust their judgment when they say the person is guilty. If 12 people can all agree -- there must be some evidence there.

  • I hear voices May 1, 2007

    @MARLBOROGRL_4 -at- YAHOO -dot- COM

    First, may I ask that you quit yelling at everyone.

    Second, yes the Bible states an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. However if we lived by those rules we would all be blind and toothless.

    Third, please don't misunderstand me, I am a religious man and agree that we need a death penalty.

    @anyone who wants to read,

    Why are we giving these criminals a right to be heard? They shouldn't have any rights after being convicted.

    Just my opinion

  • Tripwire May 1, 2007

    I mean cheap of course.

  • Tripwire May 1, 2007

    What's wrong with a 10 cent bullet to the back of the head. It's quick efficient and cheep.