Local News

Easley Says Judge Made Right Call on Death Penalty

Posted February 1, 2007 8:32 p.m. EST

Gov. Mike Easley says a Superior Court judge was right to call on the Council of State to act in a conflict that has halted execution of prisoners, but he also says the question of whether the state's system for executions is legal will not stop there.

“I think the Council of State will have to approve what the warden puts forward. If they approve that protocol, then the case is ripe to go back into court,” Easley said Thursday.

At the heart of the issue is a debate over the role of doctors in state executions.

The Department of Correction has argued that the current protocol follows the law and North Carolina Medical Board regulations. A doctor must be present at an execution, but nurses and paramedics are supposed to monitor the prisoner’s vital signs to determine when he is dead.

The Medical Board has issued a regulation, however, that forbids doctors to be present.

Last week, Judge Donald W. Stephens issued an injunction holding up executions scheduled for last Friday and this Friday.

Observers expect the General Assembly to become involved, too.

"The issue is enormous,” said Rep. Deborah Ross, D-Wake County. “I can't imagine that the Legislature isn't going to take up the issue of executions how they should be administered and whether we should have a moratorium.”

Easley says he still opposes a moratorium, but he also said he could not predict when and if executions will resume in North Carolina.

State leaders are expected to review execution protocol details over the weekend. The Council of State will take up the matter at its Tuesday morning meeting.