Local News

Death Penalty Opponents Hope To Rally Support Tuesday

Posted July 7, 2003 5:48 a.m. EDT

— Efforts to delay executions in North Carolina may pick up steam Tuesday, when supporters of a two-year moratorium hold a news conference to talk about their progress.

Death-penalty opponents say a moratorium on executions is gaining support among churches, business leaders and even local governments.

A moratorium bill passed the State Senate and has gone before the House, where support is about 12 votes short -- mainly because enough lawmakers don't think justice would be served with a delay.

Some people have been waiting for justice since March of 1987, when -- with a security camera rolling -- a robber shot up a convenience store on Person Street in Raleigh.

Customer Eddie Peeples was hit several times as he drank a cup of coffee. William Quinton Jones confessed to the crime and was sentenced to death.

Jones is one of 202 convicted killers awaiting execution on Central Prison's Death Row. His date with death would be delayed another two years if a moratorium on executions passes the state legislature.

"It means we are going to take a timeout and not execute anybody while we study whether or not the death penalty is fair," said Rep. Deborah Ross, D-Wake County.

Ross said she has received more than 200 letters from constituents supporting the moratorium.

Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby convicted Jones. He points to Jones' case as reason to move forward with executions.

"The appellate process for cases now takes from eight to 12 years to do the review by dozens of judges at all different levels," Willoughby said. "And to arbitrarily add two more years to the delay is time and expense and a slap in the face to the victims."

Willoughby said a few court cases of death-row inmates may justify review, but a temporary moratorium on executions for all 202 inmates would be a step in the wrong direction.