State News

Death penalty debate hinges on administrative procedures

Posted March 14, 2011

Death Row, Death Penalty, Execution

— The North Carolina Supreme Court heard arguments Monday in a case that could change how the death penalty is administered.

Lawyers for five death row inmates contend that an administrative law judge was right to order state officials in 2007 to revamp North Carolina's protocol for executions.

"The execution protocol will subject inmates to substantial risks of excruciating pain and suffering," said David Weiss, an attorney with the Center for Death Penalty Litigation in Durham.

The Council of State has to approve changes to death penalty procedures, but Assistant Attorney General Joe Finarelli argued that the administrative law judge never had the jurisdiction to order any changes. A Superior Court judge sided with the council in the dispute.

The state Department of Correction is exempt from much of the state law governing review of administrative procedures, Finarelli said, so inmates should have sued the state in Superior Court if they don't like the death penalty protocol instead of challenging it in an administrative hearing.

"They are challenging the substance of the protocol, (which) undercuts the entire exemption the Department of Correction has," he said. "You would be allowing the inmates to come in and challenge through the back door what they cannot challenge through the front merely by saying the Council (of State's) approval of the protocol somehow changes the substance of what was provided."

The inmates' lawyers say the council signed off on changes to capital punishment protocol without hearing from advocates for condemned prisoners.

"(The) council is required to approve an execution protocol that involves certain specific things," Weiss said, such as what should be used for lethal injection and who should administer it. "What the council has done is not to approve appliances or personnel. It's simply delegated to the warden of Central Prison the responsibility to approve appliances and personnel."

If the Supreme Court agrees, the case will go back to a lower court for review.

North Carolina hasn't carried out an execution since 2006 because of legal disputes over the protocol and whether physicians could participate. Most death row inmates also have filed claims under the state Racial Justice Act to determine whether racial bias played a role in their sentencing. State officials also fear that problems with the state crime lab could undermine the verdicts in some capital cases.


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  • LuvMyLife Mar 15, 2011

    What more could a criminal ask for - 3 hots and a cot! They just have to be careful of who they tick off in there but other than that I think they have it pretty easy. With the price of gas, groceries etc going up every day, execute the bums so the tax payers can take care of their own lives.

  • 1KidMom Mar 14, 2011

    Hang 'Em High.....Is the way I see it. IMO

    The Death Penalty Honors God....

    The Death Penalty Is A Deterrent to Crime....

    The Death Penalty Is Good for the Environment....

  • mikeyj Mar 14, 2011

    Alex 25: If the pansey panted justices would see to it death sentences were being administered quickly. I guarantee someone is gonna think twice about shooting someone for a lousy $100.00. Society has already removed the thoughts of someone taking "self accountability"! It's always the other guys fault.

  • Bill Brasky Mar 14, 2011

    My only problem with the death penalty is the percentage chance that some inmates are innocent, and that rich people here in the US are far less likely to get the death penalty.

    There have been close to 100 people that have been executed in the 20th century and later found innocent, problem is with those people it's just too late to do anything. Also due to the class structure in this nation, if you're a rich person in the US the percentage chance of receiving the death penalty is quite low, if your even convicted. If you're poor, good luck. In the past if you were a poor minority in the deep south during most of the 20th century you were as good as dead if you weren't lynched first. I'm glad we got past that, but there is still a class structure.

    I believe this country has come a long way since then and now we are able to look past race. If we are going to be carrying out the death penalty we need to fairly distribute the sentence.

  • SnowyRdu Mar 14, 2011

    Of all things to spend money on trying to come up with a better (haha) solution. I agree with most everyone here these people did not care if their victums suffered, not to mention the ongoing suffering of their families.

    Beheading does not seem so bad anymore . . . it is certainly quick and I would expect probably painless. Dress them in a turtleneck for burial no one will be the wiser.

  • DeathRow-IFeelYourPain-NOT Mar 14, 2011

    wildcat: "Life in prison and no death penalty ever."

    Don't mean to pick specifically on you. Many share your view. But I have one question. Would you and your family be willing to work, to care for all of the most violent criminals for the rest of your lives? would you put your life AND your family's lives at risk to care for these brutal, savage animals? We would even pay you a normal guard's salary. If you aren't willing to do this job, then why would you ask others to risk their lives? A dead man or woman can't harm or kill again.

  • BrightLight Mar 14, 2011

    Murderers spend little or no time pondering the deadly fate of their victims(or the ongoing pain of their victim's loved ones), then society spends years pondering things like the "..execution protocol [that] will subject [death row] inmates to substantial risks of excruciating pain and suffering". HELLO OUT THERE!!!! IS ANYBODY LISTENING???? WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE????

  • driverkid3 Mar 14, 2011

    inmates to substantial risks of excruciating pain and suffering,

    Nothing about the excruciating pain and suffering they caused their victims.

  • Always160 Mar 14, 2011

    This entire argument that all of you are having is about the rights of a CONVICTED MURDERER. However, once sentenced to death (especially in a case where the murderer is 100% guilty...and there are MANY of them) they should be put to death. Yet, they were cowardly enough to carry a gun or take a life on the street and now they are too cowardly to die themselves. Cry for your mom and claim a religion and hope it's not too late... It is a SHAME that taxpayers have to pay for these people to have MULTIPLE attorneys working for them to find a way to get them out of their sentence regardless of guilt. Bring back executions!!

  • cwood3 Mar 14, 2011

    Friends, the problem is that prison has become a country club-even for the most violent and worst of the worst!! I agree-if we're getting out of the death penalty business, then we must do something to make prison a deterant. 4'x 8' cells, solitary, 2 ok meals each day, whatever.

    Prison must be harsh so people do not want to go there. That's as simple as it gets.

    The other issue is the court system. Folks get off way to easily. The Dr that killed the dancer got 3-4.5 years for killing a woman while he was drunk doing 90MPH. That's a travisty to all North Carolinians. He should have gotten 10-15-minimum. We must use prison as a deterant!! Sentencing has become somewhat of a joke!!