Local News

Gay Groups Show Support For Hartman, Ask Easley For Clemency

Posted September 29, 2003 6:27 a.m. EDT

— Several national gay and lesbian groups are rallying behind an inmate on North Carolina's death row.

The groups are calling for Gov. Mike Easley to stay Eddie Hartman's execution, which is set for Friday.

Hartman's sexuality and history of sexual abuse as a child are factors that supporters hope can save his life.

Hartman admitted he drank 16 beers before putting a pistol to the back of his roommate's head and pulling the trigger in 1993.

Hartman buried 77-year-old Herman Smith in a barn. He then took off with Smith's money and his car.

Although Hartman admitted his guilt, his lawyers believe the prosecutor's remarks that Hartman was gay inflamed the jury, which sent Hartman to death row.

Hartman's childhood sexual abuse has inspired several gay organizations and elected officials to ask Gov. Easley to stop Hartman's scheduled execution at Central Prison.

Carrboro Mayor Mike Nelson and Chapel Hill Town Council Member Mark Kleinschmidt spoke Monday on behalf of lesbians and gays. They said that gay citizens need to believe they are treated fairly, like any other citizen of North Carolina, and that popular culture has embraced the gay and lesbian communities as full citizens.

Before jurors determined Hartman's fate, the judge told them to disregard the prosecution's gay comments. The state Supreme Court later ruled that the judge's instructions were enough to undo any effect the prosecutor's comments might have had.

Monday, Hartman's lawyers asked the state Supreme Court to stop the execution because of the anti-gay message to the jury. Gov. Easley will listen to both sides in a clemency hearing Tuesday.