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Exonerated Inmates Protest Death Penalty

Posted November 2, 2007

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— Seventeen former death row inmates from across the country gathered at the General Assembly Friday to focus on what they see as a major flaw with the death penalty – an innocent person could be executed.

All 17 had been condemned to die, only to be declared innocent years later. One of them, Harold Wilson, spent 17 years on death row in Pennsylvania for a triple murder he didn't commit.

"The district attorney's office was practicing a pattern and policy of using race discrimination," Wilson said. "Execute justice. Right now we have a broken system."

North Carolina lawmakers have balked for the past two years at the idea of issuing a moratorium on the death penalty. But the state has had a de facto moratorium since January because of court disputes over the role of physicians in executions and how to ensure that inmates don't suffer while undergoing lethal injection, which could violate the constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

The U.S. Supreme Court has taken a case this year that includes that question.

Gov. Mike Easley, who supports the death penalty, said the state needs to study the justice system while executions remain on hold.

Death penalty opponent Kurt Rosenburg agreed that more study is needed.

"How can we figure out what the right way to kill someone is when we can't even figure out whether we're killing the right person?" Rosenburg asked.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, executions steadily dropped nationally from 59 in 2005 to 52 in 2006 to 41 this year.

State Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford, said flawed North Carolina cases like the overturned murder conviction of Alan Gell, the wrongful rape conviction of Darryl Hunt and the rush to judgment of three Duke University lacrosse players wrongly accused of rape merit a deliberate look at the entire justice system.

"Lethal injection is sort of a technicality on how the death penalty is administered. Whether we should be administering the death penalty at all is the bigger question," Harrison said.

Still, polls show a majority of North Carolina residents continue to support death sentences for convicted killers.

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  • NZ Nov 3, 2007

    If they are guilty execute them and execute them quickly. These men aren't doing the nation nor the people any favors. If there are errors well its too bad. People are dying for a lot less in the middle east. There are martyrs on all sides. Innocent cops die on the beat here in the US and we cry for them too.

    If you are opposed to the Death Penalty and Corporal Punishment you should move to Europe. They appear to harbor your similar views.

  • richard2 Nov 3, 2007

    Lawyers don't make money off of dead people,only inmates. There are crimes that deserve the big one.

  • Jokers Wild II Nov 3, 2007

    djofraleigh - I Meant to add that He is not in jail for a crime he SHOULD have been convicted of.. everyone knows without a doubt he killed that man, but unfortunately the SBI and D.A. messed that up for the victims family. They should use the death penalty more in cases where it is needed.

  • Jokers Wild II Nov 3, 2007

    djofraleigh - He is in jail for Raping a 15 yr old girl, which he ended up getting her pregnant, oh and they locked her step-dad up for raping her as well, which also was Alan's "friend" at the time.

  • djofraleigh Nov 3, 2007

    Capital punishment is a proper issue for NAACP, etc. Half of US murder victims are black males, mostly 17 - 29, lower income, unmarried & urban. 93% are killed by other blacks. Murder is the capital crime.

    Religious and ethical groups should take issue with it. Jesus was an innocent man, executed.

    Those concerned with government spending should take issue with it. It is cheaper to house an inmate than execute hir.

    Those whose sense of justice demands an eye for an eye, who think death deters killers from killing, have an issue.

  • jahausa Nov 3, 2007

    This is one of those really tough issues. It certainly seems like we need the death penalty - but it also seems like we are too capricious in handing it out (ahem, Texas). Just no answer here.

  • djofraleigh Nov 3, 2007

    Why is Gell back in jail?

    He was a reported petty drug dealer, breaking and entering, took a gun to school, and maybe stole a car, so prison MIGHT NOT have fixed his ways, and maybe he is in jail, but not on death row. He doesn't have to be a credit to society. The thing is that the state didn't execute him for a crime he didn't do. So the state is less to blame.

    Abortion and the death penalty are both the taking of life, and should be practiced most judiciously, and rarely.

  • mom2threecld Nov 3, 2007

    i think when there is no doubt at all, such as the person admits to the horrible crime of murder or rape, they should carry out the death penalty if their mental capacity has been evaluated and they are of sound mindl and i think it should be faster than 20 years. however, if they are maintaining the fact they aren't guilty, with our day and age of DNA testing, it should be easy enough to know

  • Jokers Wild II Nov 3, 2007

    of course Allen Gell is in jail.. He did not learn anything the first time when he got lucky.. he knows he is where he should be!

  • shine Nov 3, 2007

    I hope their outcomes will not be like Alen Gells. He is in jail.