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Questions Abound as Death Penalty Proponents, Opponents Vie Before Judge

Posted May 21, 2007

— A hearing Monday began to tackle the issues surrounding execution by lethal injection in North Carolina, including the question of whether the practice should be considered medicine only because it uses drugs.

An administrative law judge must decide whether the Council of State needs to reconsider the way North Carolina executes death-row inmates. In addition to the question of whether it is medicine, the hearing is attempting to determine if inmates suffer in the process and what is the real role of a doctor in executions.

Executions are on hold because of the questions raised by several death-row inmates and their attorneys.

Death penalty opponents argue that the state has no plan that can prevent cruel and unusual punishment. They called UNC Medical School anesthesiology professor Dr. Philip Boysen

“You might end up paralyzing somebody that actually isn't fully anesthetized, and they're aware,” Boysen said.

Boysen also made a statement that may work to the state’s benefit, however.

In his opinion, Boysen told Administrative Law Judge Fred Morrison, lethal injection is not a medical procedure.

Attorneys for the state argue that the State Medical Board should not be able to bar doctors from executions if it's not a medical procedure.

Dr. Obi Umesi is the physician who was called upon to be present during the last few state executions. Umesi said he did nothing other than stand in a room next to the chamber where inmates died from lethal injections.

Questioned by an attorney, Umesi told the hearing that it would be "practically impossible" for him to determine whether an inmate was showing signs of undo pain and suffering.

Attorneys for death-row inmates say that situation violates a federal judge's order and shows that the state’s lethal injection protocol makes no sense. The state’s process requires a doctor to monitor vital signs.

The medical board has ruled, however, that doctors may not participate, and Umesi said that meant he would not be involved.

“If I were to monitor a patient who was being executed, I would immediately withdraw myself,” Umesi said.

Attorneys for the inmates are arguing that they were unfairly denied a chance to address the elected officials who comprise the Council of State before the protocol passed. The secretary for the Council of State told the  that few people ever get to make their case to the council.

”I just have no recollection of Council of State ever treating its business meeting as a public hearing,” secretary David McCoy testified.

Morrison is expected to rule within a few weeks.


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  • COPs eye May 22, 2007

    I wonder how opponents of the death penalty feel for the scum that killed Randy Terrell. Everyone saw the senseless killing for themselves. If you think death to the scum that did this is not warranted than you need to get out of this country cause you might be next. Violence is rising and killing of innocent people is too. By the way I worked in the NC Dept of Correction housing these so called animals for 5 years before I went to the streets to be a cop. Prison is not so bad on these people. For some it is better than life on the outside. Before you post a comment at least have the decency to have an intelligent opinion.

  • European American May 22, 2007

    "Due to the legal issues of killing someone by lethal injection, it is more expensive to carry out the killing than to keep them for life"???? Let's see the financial analysis done on this brilliant statement.
    "For the state to execute even one innocent person makes the death penalty unacceptable." So it's ok for our tax money to be spent killing innocents overseas? Go ahead and run for office!

  • Cyn May 22, 2007

    Due to the legal issues of killing someone by lethal injection, it is more expensive to carry out the killing than to keep them for life. I hate child molesters and killers of the innocent, but I am sure, by resent DNA results, that we do have innocent people on death row. Its not worth it. Just keep the worst of the worst until they die and quit debating this. For the state to execute even one innocent person makes the death penalty unacceptable.

  • tarheelnc2001 May 22, 2007

    i think that life in prision would be far worse then getting the death penalty

  • European American May 22, 2007

    Ah.. another fiction believer speaking up. Perhaps I should have said to freeze them in carbonite.. maybe that would have made more sense.

  • Just Mojo May 22, 2007

    not all people of faith are opposed to the death penalty, so one should watch the comments about "religious freaks" i am a christian, and capital punishment is biblical and just, an eye for an eye... it is no more cruell to execute a murderer than it was for the victim of the crime.

  • European American May 22, 2007

    Let's see... with no Death Penalty, the criminals get 3 square meals a day, along with shelter, baths, clothing, etc. All at the expense of the tax payers.
    Meanwhile, we have the homeless, citizens in poverty, terrible health care, and failing school systems.
    Get these scum out of the system and out of our lives. Execute them (preferrably as painful as possible) and move on. No more of this sitting on Death Row for 10+yrs. Completely Unacceptable! The religious freaks have broken this country enough, and it's time to stop.

  • mslisac363 May 22, 2007

    Do any of these people ever look at the prisons and how these animals live. People keep talking about giving a person life in prison and every day working people lives are put at risk trying to keep them from killing again inside of prison. People that don't think that death sould be rendered should have to watch and take care of all of the crazy people that have to be housed like wild animals.

  • yacs May 22, 2007

    No problem, cuzinlukey -- thanks to you for sharing, as well. I'm sorry to hear what happened to your sister, but hope you and your family have found peace, as well. It sounds like you're satisfied that justice was done.

  • Lukey May 22, 2007

    you are correct sir: I see from your writings that you are already at peace with where you stand. That is the important thing in all this. If you can be at peace whether pro or con the death penalty then you are where you should be. Thanks for sharing.