Local News

As Next Execution Nears, Debate Over the Death Penalty Continues

Posted November 5, 2000

— On Thursday, the first scheduled execution since last November is expected to take place in Raleigh. Many people want the state to rethink the process of executing criminals.

There are215 people on North Carolina's death row. The majority of them are men at Raleigh's Central Prison.

Advocates for a moratorium say it is not about whether or not you support the death penalty. They say it is about fairness.

"I have this feeling that most people in the USA are in love with the death penalty," says Daggia Polzin. Her fiance, Bobby Lee Harris, is scheduled to be executed early next year for killing his boss.

"I'm crying every evening. It's very hard for me, very hard," she says.

Moratorium supporters say if you are poor and black, you are more likely to end up on death row.

Of North Carolina's death row inmates, 134 -- more than half -- are minorities.

"We would like to see the justice system examined and repaired, because we're dealing with life and death issues," says Margaret Toman, of Wake County for a Moratorium.

Lawmakers are studying how the death penalty is administered. In the meantime, moratorium supporters want the Governor to stay all executions.

"Mr. Easley and Mr.Vinroot have been afraid to raise this issue because in their thinking, it's clear that they don't want North Carolinians talking about the death penalty," says Stephen Dear, of People of Faith.

The debate over a death penalty moratorium has become a issue in many campaigns this election year.

Both gubernatorial candidates say they are against a moratorium.

"I don't support that," says Republican candidate Richard Vinroot. "I'm very much in favor of the death penalty. I say that because I think it's a deterrent."

"Right now, I don't think we need a moratorium in North Carolina," says Democratic candidate Mike Easley.

While Daggia Polzin waits for something to happen, she is asked one question again and again. Why would you support someone on death row? She says for her, it is all about love.

Fifty-two organizations, many of them religious, support a moratorium in North Carolina.

Eight town and county governments in the state have voted in favor of a moratorium. Monday night, the Winston-Salem City Council tabled their vote on a moratorium because an alderman was absent for the meeting. They will discuss the issue at their next meeting.

Thestate legislatureis expected to vote on a moratorium early next year.

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