Local News

Medical Device Makes Debut At N.C. Execution

Posted April 20, 2006 10:33 a.m. EDT

— The U.S. Supreme Court and North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley have rejected the final stay requests of a North Carolina death row inmate who is scheduled to die by injection early Friday.

“Having carefully reviewed the clemency petition, I conclude that there are no compelling reasons to invalidate the sentence recommended by the jury and imposed, and affirmed, by the courts,” Easley said in a statement late Friday.

A federal appeals court had previously rejected an appeal by lawyers for Willie Brown Jr., who had argue that it is possible that he will remain conscious and in pain while being put to death. Brown's attorneys had already convinced a federal judge to order the state to change its procedures to ensure that condemned inmates remained asleep during their executions.

The state's execution process will have an added element when Brown is put death around 2 a.m. A device called the bispectral index monitor will monitor his brain waves to make sure he's unconscious before prison officials inject him with a lethal cocktail of drugs.

The judge refused to stop Brown's execution, but wanted to make sure he would not feel pain. The controversial ruling first called for medical professionals to make sure Brown was unconscious, but the judge later decided the machine would suffice.

Executions already include a doctor and nurse who observe a cardiac machine from an observation room. The doctor and nurse will observe this new machine from the same place.

Brown has another appeal pending before the U.S. Supreme Court that argues he was poorly represented by his trial lawyer and that the judge gave erroneous instructions to the jury.

He also has a request for clemency pending before Gov. Mike Easley.

Brown was sent to death row for the 1983 slaying of a woman during a convenience store robbery in Martin County. He was moved Wednesday to Central Prison's death watch area, a small cell block across the hall from the execution chamber.

Prison spokesman Keith Acree said Thursday afternoon that Brown ordered a last meal of a well-done T-bone steak, rice, rolls with butter and German chocolate cake.

Protesters Plan To Make Last-Minute Stand At Prison

On Thursday, there was a peaceful, orderly death penalty protest in front of the State Capitol to protest Brown's scheduled execution. That rally was perfectly legal. However, during the past three executions at Central Prison, some protestors left the barricaded sidewalk and blocked the prison entrance. State Capitol Police arrested dozens of them, including Martin Caver.

"I would rather be in jail than be part and parcel to a murder," said Caver, whose charges were dropped.

In most cases, the Wake County District Attorney dropped the charges. But protestors arrested 2-3 times are now out of luck. The state is trying 10 people for trespassing at Central Prison. Those charged said a prayer before entering the Wake County Courthouse Thursday to face the charges.

"We went into the action knowing we were probably going to be arrested, and we were willing to face any legal ramifications of that," said arrested protestor Eric Getty outside the courtroom.

They say it is worth the risk because they passionately believe executions are wrong. Their goal is to prevent people taking part in the execution from entering the prison. Protestors say they plan to block the entrance on the eve of Brown's execution.

"It will happen tonight, and whether or not I'm a part of it I will decide as the day unfolds," said arrested protestor Sheila Stumph. "I still have hope that the courts will do the right thing and that Gov. (Mike) Easley will do the right thing."

The protestors in court Thursday will be back in front of a judge for a trial on June 19. They plan to represent themselves. If convicted, they could be sentenced to 40 days in jail.