Bill would increase penalty for second-degree murder

Posted March 24, 2011
Updated March 25, 2011

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— The penalty for second-degree murder could get tougher in North Carolina.

Sen. Buck Newton, R-Nash, said the current sentence where a criminal convicted of the crime could be out of prison in a minimum of 10 years didn’t seem like "enough punishment."

Newton proposed Senate Bill 105, which increases the minimum punishment to around 16 years in prison.

Newton said the change would help prosecutors

"They pointed out there was such a difference in the penalties between first-degree and second-degree murder," he said.

First-degree murder carries a sentence of at least life in prison. Newton said that difference made it difficult for prosecutors to feel comfortable offering plea deals involving a lower charge.

Advocates for crime victims also like the bill.

Tom Bennett, executive director of the North Carolina Victim Assistance Network, said the shorter sentence hurts the loved ones of murder victims.

"It makes the victims feel their loved one’s life was not valued," Bennett said.

Others agree there are problems with the sentencing structure but do not approve of the solution offered by this bill.

"There is a fairly large gap that from my view would be best served by creating an alternative punishment,” said Thomas Maher, executive director of the North Carolina Office of Indigent Defense Services. North Carolina flag, NC flag, state flag, N.C. flag Bill would increase penalty for second-degree murder

He proposed that instead of increasing the penalty for second-degree murder, legislators should create another category of crime between it and first-degree murder.

In the long run, Maher said, holding convicts in prison longer will get expensive.

"Some thought needs to be given to what we are going to be paying 10, 12, 15 years from now for a significant number of people serving significantly longer sentences," Maher said.

The bill has passed the Senate. Two senators voted against it. 

Sen. Gladys Robinson, D-Guilford, said she voted against it, because she worries that minority defendants would get the longest sentences. She said she's also concerned that battered women who kill their attackers in self-defense will get long sentences.


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  • mikeyj Mar 25, 2011

    HA, All these politicians are doing is appeasing their masses buy giving an appearance of "get tough". Murder by definition is to take one life. In my opinion; I don't care how, why or with what. Life is someones most precious commodity. If one takes someone elses life; then that one should lose all opportunity to: "Life, Liberty and The persuit of happiness". See link.,_liberty_and_the_pursuit_of_happiness NOTE: Life is first mentioned. Hmmmm go figure.
    Now if the "Pansey Pants" of the "justice system" want to get their act together. Then; Reinstate the death penalty. Enforce the death penaly. Create a "death row". Sentence to "death row". And here's the biggie. Purge death row on a quarterly basis. Afterall; by the time the sentencing phase of trials come about,the party has already been deemed "guilty" by a "jury of his/her peers". P.S. I also have no mercy on child molestors or rapists either, but that is why I am not a lawyer.

  • emerald7575 Mar 25, 2011

    The one thing that most of you who support these illusive "get tough" measures on crime fail to understand is the fact that the longer one is incarcerated, the less likely they are to reenter society.. Thats the whole point we DONT want him back in society!!!!!

  • rgbreed Mar 25, 2011

    nhmtnclimb, I guess I was too slow and you finished my previous post for me (ran out of characters).

    All the research indicates that prison usually makes people worse, not better. You can look at instances where innocent people have been wrongfully convicted and imprisoned. They have gone it innocent and come out hardened criminals. I heard one man say in a documentary that he had to fight for his life, literally.

    I can recall a situation in court that is a perfect example. A young man, already in trouble a couple of times, stood before the judge. The young man's father was asked by this judge, "What would you like to see happen here?" The man replied, "I would like to see my son get the psychological help he needs." The judge responded by saying, "I'm going to give him the maximum allowable sentence for this crime." I was disgusted to say the least. Last I heard, this young man was incarcerated again and I have a feeling he will spend much of his life in prison.

  • rgbreed Mar 25, 2011

    My father died at his own hands drinking and driving so I take it very seriously. I also think that the courts should do more to enforce existing laws against first and second time offenders. If you are caught three times, I have no sympathy, especially if it is within a small window of time

    Personally, I have no tolerance for drinking and driving but it happens every day. I think there needs to be more focus on rehabilitation and less "throw away the key" mentality.

    To RR99. Have you ever been in a prison? I would hardly call prison, or jail for that matter, a "vacation hotel" unless you are referring to federal facilities, such as the one in which Martha Stewart was incarcerated.

    Your perceptions, though noteworthy, regarding why the prisons stay full are not evidence based. The US has the highest incarceration rate in the world and the recidivism rate is hovering around 64%. They don't go back to prison for the luxurious accommodations and gourmet dining...

  • nhmtnclimb Mar 25, 2011

    The one thing that most of you who support these illusive "get tough" measures on crime fail to understand is the fact that the longer one is incarcerated, the less likely they are to reenter society successfully. Certainly, violent offenders do need to remain incarcerated indefinitly, though for most, they will be released and will likely recommit without adequate counseling or other cognitive-behavioral treatment. Naturally though, they must be willing to make that change.

    Further, though the commission of crime is a choice in of itself, it is often preceded by other precipitating factors. Long story short....for generally nonviolent psychopathic criminals, confinement is absolutely necessary whereas for others, those advocating for longer sentences are merely shooting themselves in the foot by delaying the inevitable release of an offender who has only leanred the art of using different methods to commit crime during their longer sentence.

  • rroadrunner99 Mar 25, 2011

    I think they should propose a bill taking away all these "hotel" prison's in every prison in the United States. Make it a Prison like it is suppose to be, not a vacation hotel,Then add a length of time to some of the prsion sentence's that are handed out instead of a little slap on the wrist sentence. Make them serve enough time that it makes them think before they "act" again. Andbring back the death penalty and put it to use! When the violent criminal's see prisoner's start paying for their action's with their life you'll see the prison population start to drop fast. BUT as long as it's made to be a vacation, the prison's will stay full.

  • Parrot Ice Mar 25, 2011

    rgbreed: There was intent there. The person drove while impaired and knew before even the first drink (when sober) drinking and driving kills. You can't make sound decisions when your brain is in a fog.

    You mention when a person has a long history of drunk driving...what, pray tell, is considered a long history 5 times 10 times or just when is enough..enough?

    I don't know you or your personal life but if your parents or child(ren) were killed by a person impaired they should be let go after a few days or a year? Remember this: your relative is gone....FOREVER. Accidents happen, yes...but drinking is driving is no accident. It is a conscious decision to put the liquor to the lips.

  • sillywabbitthepatriot Mar 25, 2011

    Maher is more concerned with costs rather than incarcerating someone who deserves more jail time. How many are repeat offenders? How many will get a short second-degree murder charge, get out and commit another crime? What does repeat offenders of any kind costs taxpayers to try them?

    Make them serve long, HARD time.

  • rgbreed Mar 25, 2011

    I have a friend who is incarcerated for second degree murder. She killed her best friend while driving drunk. I agree that second degree murder is very serious and should not be taken lightly. However, I do not think the unintentional death of someone under these circumstances should be this extreme. This is where structured sentencing falls short. I think allowing judges some amount of discretion, depending upon the circumstances, is warranted. Yes, if you have a long history of drunk driving and kill someone, then you should be given a very lengthy sentence. However, if you are just over the legal limit and do the same thing, there should be a difference in sentencing. Regardless of what many would like to thin, one size does not fit all, and it shouldn't.

  • babedan Mar 25, 2011

    Leonardo - you just described what Manslaughter is or supposed to be. Second degree murder is murder without premeditation. In other words you planned or took action to kill someone but you just didn't know at the time who it was going to be.