Local News

Attorneys Ask Courts to Block Execution on Friday

Posted January 23, 2007 7:53 p.m. EST
Updated January 24, 2007 11:34 a.m. EST

— Attorneys for an inmate scheduled to be put to death Friday at Central Prison are asking the courts to block the execution on the ground that the state cannot assure he will die without pain.

Marcus Robinson, 33, is to be executed for the 1991 murder of a Fayetteville teenager, Erik Tornblom. James Edward Thomas is scheduled to be executed Feb. 2 for the slaying of Teresa West, and James Adoph Campbell is scheduled for Feb. 9.

The lawyers’ appeal comes at the same time that several states have put executions on hold and a ruling from the North Carolina Medical Board last week that doctors who participate in executions violate the ethics of their profession.

North Carolina uses lethal injection for executions. State law requires a medical doctor to be present when inmates received the deadly cocktail.

Lawyers for convicted killers Robinson and for Thomas, who also face a death sentence, say the state law and the board’s ruling contradict each other.

“The physician is there for a purpose, so he is participating once he steps into the room” where the inmate will be killed, according to Robert Zaytoun, Thomas' attorney.

At the same time as the legal appeals are in court, death penalty opponents are making medical ethics part of their protest.

“Until we resolve that conflict it seems wrong that an execution should go forward,” said Katie Maslanka, a death penalty opponent.

Thirty state lawmakers have signed a letter to Gov. Mike Easley calling for him to suspend executions. They referred to states like Florida, where Gov. Jeb Bush issued a moratorium after a botched lethal injection.

The arguments do not persuade everyone, including C.W. "Pete" Bland, a former state senator and the uncle of the woman Robinson killed.

“We are crossing a bridge before we get to it here. If we had a problem, I could understand more of their sentiment,” Bland said.

“This is a tragedy for both families. But, I feel real firm about the judgment being carried out,” Bland said.

Responding to the defendants’ lawyers, the state Department of Correction said it sees no problem moving forward with executions.

Officials say doctors are not required to do anything except sign a death certificate. A nurse and emergency medical technician monitor the inmates vital signs, they noted.

Easley has no comment on what he'll do. A spokesman would say only that the governor will follow the law as required.