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Executions Could Remain on Hold Indefinitely

Posted January 7, 2008

Death Row, Death Penalty, Execution
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— As the U.S. Supreme Court grapples with the practice of lethal injection to carry out executions, the death chamber at Central Prison in Raleigh remains dormant – a situation observers expect to continue for some time.

The Supreme Court heard arguments Monday in a Kentucky case in which condemned inmates challenged the three-drug cocktail used to execute people in that state. The inmates allege that the drugs risk causing excruciating pain, which would violate the Constitution's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

North Carolina uses the same drug cocktail to execute condemned inmates, so state officials and defense lawyers are keeping an eye on the high court's actions.

Several other legal challenges to executions have put the North Carolina death penalty on hold for more than a year, however. The last execution was carried out in August 2006, and 166 people now sit on death row. Observers said they expect that to continue.

"It will always be a complicated issue, and it's hard to imagine there not being litigation swirling around it continuously in the future," said Mark Kleinschmidt, a lawyer with Fair Trial Initiative who represents death-row inmate James Thomas.

Thomas was convicted in the 1986 killing of Teresa West in Wake County. She was strangled with a pair of pantyhose and sexually assaulted with a telephone receiver in what attorneys said was a heroin deal gone awry.

In addition to the lethal-injection drugs themselves, the role of doctors in executions and the state's protocol for carrying out the death penalty remain tied up in North Carolina courts.

"We need to think about this and wonder, is this an appropriate way to deal with crime?" Kleinschmidt said.

Senior Administrative Law Judge Fred Morrison Jr., who last summer ordered state officials to consider input from death-row inmates in revising the execution protocol, said he is eager to read the Supreme Court's ruling in the Kentucky case.

"It's the manner in which the executions are performed (where) the Supreme Court can give guidance," Morrison said. "Right now, (the death penalty is) on hold."

West's uncle, former Craven County Sheriff C.W. "Pete" Bland, said he is frustrated by the legal limbo created by the various challenges to the death penalty.

"I feel that we've got one of the fairest ways of sentencing a man to death," Bland said, adding that West's family is prepared for however things play out in the courts.

"Whichever way it goes, that's going to be what the good Lord intended, and that's what we're going to live with," he said.


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  • robjustrob Jan 8, 2008

    Gee, what was so wrong with my prior post? All I said was that an untimely death is in and of itself a cruel and unusual punishment first of all to the victim. There are no advocates for victims. No one to decide if their manner of murder is too painful. So give the decision to a victim's family member as to the execution or other punishment of the convicted murderer and let that person alone bear the moral burden instead of society as a whole. That way we won't have politicians running interference, globally legislating our personal moralities and letting these vicious killers live long comfortable lives at taxpayers' expense.
    Now then... what's so objectionable about that?

  • robjustrob Jan 8, 2008

    An untimely death is in and of itself a cruel and unusual punishment. A victim, having no choice in the matter, no advocate to file for a stay of murder, no ad hoc committee of bleeding hearts to mitigate the manner in which the victim will be murdered is made to suffer this cruel and unusual punishment. It leaves the rest of us pitched somewhere in between mainstream Christian ideals of forgiveness and the law of Hammurhabbi (or was it Solomon) while politicians and special interest groups run enough interference to guarantee the murderer an uninterrupted superior standard of living at the taxpayers' expense for a long time to come. If perhaps a victim's family member or other loved one was given the opportunity and the responsibility to make the decision on execution of the convicted killer, cruel and unusual or not, then the moral burden would lie with that individual and not on society as a whole, wouldn't it? And then we wouldn't have politicians globally legislating our morality.

  • clover1019 Jan 8, 2008

    an eye for an eye, jeez what ever happened to the electric chair or the guillotine? thats why its called DEATH row. i agree with talkabout. im tired of my tax dollars going to keep this scum alive.

  • Jan 8, 2008

    Redstar: Don't make us bible thumping rednecks force a passive little yankee athiest like yourself to endure a continuous 12 hour loop of country music at "rebel yell" volume.YEEEEEEEE HAWWWWWWWW!!! It ain't purdy. Talk about cruel and unusual punishment.

  • fireman1963 Jan 8, 2008

    redstarlean - please. I get so tired of people saying that people in the "Bible Belt" are backward. I'll just bet you are form the north aren't you?

  • fireman1963 Jan 8, 2008

    Are they going to put murders on hold indefinitely as well? Just a thought.

  • NC is my home Jan 8, 2008

    The NC Medical Society should foot the bill for the State's court costs and care & feedng of those on death row.

  • Gandalf The White Jan 8, 2008

    “I find it very interesting that here in the bible belt I find such hate, backwardness and blood lust.”

    Well if wanting murderers to be executed for the crime they committed is backwards and blood lust then works for me. As far as the hate goes, well I am guilty of that too if having absolutely no compassion towards a lowlife piece of scum that murders someone else is considered hate, so be it. I also have no problem with how executions are performed. In fact I would be for them utilizing so called inhumane ways such as hanging, firing squad, electric chair or the good ole guillotine. To me using 3 drugs to rid society of these vermin is too humane and the moment they took another human life they forfeited any and all humane rights.

  • talkabout Jan 8, 2008

    I have an idea: The death penalty should be the EXACT same thing that killed thier victims. I DOUBT that these people took into consideration PAIN and SUFFERING when they killed thier victims. THEY (inmates) should die the EXACT same way thier victims did.

  • b-man Jan 8, 2008

    CODEBLUEEMT Im so glad there is someone else who thinks that way!!!!!! I cant believe they would worry if the killer suffered! Do you think the person killed suffered?