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State Officials Sidestep Execution Debate

Posted October 2, 2007

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— The North Carolina Council of State on Tuesday tossed the debate over the death penalty back to the courts, saying it wasn't their place to sort out the controversial issue.

Senior Administrative Law Judge Fred Morrison Jr. in August ordered the Council of State, a nine-member panel that includes Gov. Mike Easley and other statewide elected officials, to review the protocol used in executions. But after a brief discussion Tuesday, the council voted 8-1 to send the issue to Superior Court, determining that Morrison lacked jurisdiction in the death penalty dispute.

Insurance Commissioner Jim Long cast the lone dissenting vote.

"We really shouldn't be in it," Easley said. "But we did what the Superior Court asked us to do. We're just trying to keep this in Superior Court. We're trying to stay out of it."

Morrison's ruling came in a lawsuit by some death-row inmates, who challenged the state's use of lethal injection as a violation of constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment. The judge determined that the protocol needed to be tweaked to ensure inmate's rights were protected, and he ordered that the Council of State accept input from attorneys representing death row inmates before adjusting the protocol.

"The issue we did (Tuesday) was not pro or con death penalty or prosecutions or what have you. It was a procedural matter," Secretary of State Elaine Marshall said.

The council's move upset attorneys for death-row inmates.

"It is, in fact, their job to look at this issue. So we were disappointed that essentially a procedural issue was used to avoid it," attorney Elizabeth Kuniholm said. "Someone needs to step up to the plate."

Executions have been put on hold in the state since January, when the North Carolina Medical Board adopted a policy that threatened to punish physicians for participating in executions. State law requires that a physician be present at every execution.

Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens ruled last month that the medical board overstepped its authority and ruled that the board cannot punish physicians. The state Department of Correction sued the board in March, saying no physicians were willing to help carry out an execution for fear of losing his or her medical license.

At the same time, the cocktail of drugs used in lethal injections have been questioned in North Carolina and elsewhere.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently agreed to hear a case involving Kentucky's lethal injection procedures, and whether inmates suffer as a result. North Carolina uses the same drug combination as Kentucky.

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  • napdog123 Oct 2, 2007

    EVERYONE..SERIOUSLY...ASK YOURSELF THIS. DOES IT HONESTLY HURT ANYONES FEELINGS THAT SOMEONE BEING PUT TO DEATH, YES KEY WORD, PUT TO DEATH, IS GOING TO FEEL SOME BAD PAIN JUST BEFORE DYING!!!! WHO CARES!!! MAYBE THEY WILL THINK ABOUT HOW THEIR VICTIM FELT WHEN THEY SLAUGHTERED THEM!!!! KILL EM ALL AND LET GOD SORT EM OUT!

  • gflowers Oct 2, 2007

    I WAS THINKING WHY WE SHOULD CONSIDER IF THE PUNISHMENT IS CRUEL AND UNUSUAL,THE PEOPLE ON DEAH ROW DID NOT THINK OF THEIR VICTIMS RIGHTS WHEN THEY TOOK THEIR LIFE SO I THINK ONCE THEIR APPEAL IS DONE AND THEY ARE STILL FOUND GUILTY THAT THE SENTENCE SHOULD BE CARRIED OUT WHERE THEY WILL FEEL SOME KIND OF PAIN.USE THE SAME THING THEY USE TO PUT AN ANIMAL TO SLEEP WITH,THAT IS WHAT A LOT OF THE CONVICTED RAPIST AND KILLERS ACTED LIKE,AN ANIMAL SO GIVE THEM WHAT THEY DESERVE.

  • papa jim Oct 2, 2007

    it is so true that only GOD can judge them but is up to us to arrange the meeting

  • rpdwife05 Oct 2, 2007

    I am sick and tired of criminals... violent criminals, having more rights than their innocent victims, police, and good citizens.

  • PlanetX Oct 2, 2007

    The more cruel and painful, the better. How else does society say, in no uncertain terms, this behavior and these crimes are completely unacceptable and will NOT be tolerated. We WILL put you to death, and it WILL hurt. End of story - if you don't want to die, don't kill.

  • Rocknhorse Oct 2, 2007

    mvnull - I am not suggesting that a person be punished out of line with their crime. I am in fact suggesting they be punished in direct correlation to their crime. I would not suggest that a person be punished more harshly than their crime. So if someone steels, no I would not agree with capital punishment. However, if a person knows that if he/she commits some terrible, painful, frightening crime on another and that if/when they are caught, they will bear the same, I dare say they'd consider NOT doing it. How many women who poison their husbands would want to eat that poison sprinkled donut? But if they knew that's all they'd get in prison, then maybe they wouldn't poison their husband!

  • NeverSurrender Oct 2, 2007

    "An eye for eye only ends up making the whole world blind."
    --- Mohandas Gandhi

    That being said, I do believe capital punishment has a place in our society but one of the duties of society is to ensure as best as one can that the condemned person is truly guilty of the alleged crime and that the appropriate punishment is death.

    That's why I support the automatic appeal of a capital conviction but I don't believe in the Ted Bundy style of twisting the legal system to merely delay the inevitable. A properly conducted appeal ought to be able to determine if the defendent's rights were violated during the trial process or they are exonerated and the only standing for an additional appeal would be inadequate counsel for the defence.

    Yes, it seems like we're giving all of the advantages to the criminal. But were you sitting in the prisoner's dock on trial for your life, I'd imagine you'd want your rights protected as well.

  • x0owaiting4you Oct 2, 2007

    Personally, I don't think two wrongs make it right, therefore, I believe the death penalty is wrong. Who has the right to judge anyone on death row and say their life should be taken? Only God can judge them, and trust and believe, he will give them what they deserve. He is a man of equailty.

  • ConcernedNCC Oct 2, 2007

    I don't know why it's so hard for people to understand that the Founding Fathers used the words "cruel and unusual punishment" for a reason. It was never supposed to stop cruel or unusual punishment, only that which fell into both catagories, "cruel AND unusual".

  • mvnull Oct 2, 2007

    "An eye for an eye! I say if the guilty burried their victim alive, then bury them alive."

    It is interesting how many Christians (and others) use this quote out of context. It was originally used to teach that you shouldn't punish someone out of line with their crime (no executions for pickpocketers). It is teaching against the revenge factor. Now, many use it to rachet up the revenge.

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