Local News

As Hunt Commutes Sentence, Death Penalty Foes Suggest Changes in Law

Posted November 20, 2000

— For only the second time in four terms, Gov. Hunt commuted a death sentence Tuesday. Meanwhile, the death penalty is set to take the stage in this year's state legislative session.

Marcus Carter was scheduled to die Wednesday morning for the murder and attempted rape of Goldsboro's Amelia Lewis 11 years ago. Hunt says there were too many questions about the trial to put Carter to death.

North Carolina lawmakers know the issue of the death penalty will come up in this year's session. A commission met Tuesday to talk about solving some of the legal controversies surrounding that form of punishment.

Amid increasing protests by opponents of the death penalty, some state lawmakers want reform. Members of the commission spent a year studying how the death penalty is applied in North Carolina. They are recommending three major changes:

  • No death penalty for mentally challenged.
  • A racial justice act should be adopted.
  • A moratorium on the death penalty should be adopted.

    Committee members phoned the recommendations into the governor's office, hoping to influence Hunt's decision about convicted murderer Marcus Carter.

    "[We recommend] that the racial justice act be imposed, which would make more difficult things like what's happening in this Marcus Carter case," Sen. Paul Leubke, D-Durham County, told the governor's office.

    Governor Hunt decided to commute Carter's death sentence over doubts whether he got a fair trial.

    "Without going into detail, let me just say that I have concerns about that in this case," he says.

    Defense attorney Mark Edwards gave Carter the news.

    "He sat there for a couple of minutes more like he was stunned. Finally, he got a little weak kneed and had to sit down in a chair," he says. "[He] put his head in his hands, and I think then it really sunk in for him."

    Carter represented himself at trial. Some death penalty opponents say Carter's case illustrates what's wrong with the system. They say black defendants with white victims are more likely to get the death penalty.

    More voices are joining the clamor against the death penalty, but they face an uphill battle with prosecutors, politicians and citizens like victim's advocate Howard Ange.

    "Nobody has proven to me that we're making errors in our executions," he says. "Until I see that, I stand for no moratorium."

    Carter's family says they are relieved by the governor's decision. They still maintain Carter is innocent of the crime.

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