Local News

State Senator Files Bill for Execution Moratorium

Posted February 7, 2007 8:29 p.m. EST

— A state lawmaker filed a bill Wednesday that would impose an official moratorium on lethal injection until legal and ethical questions can be answered.

The move by Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, D-Orange, comes one day after state leaders approved an execution protocol that requires a doctor to monitor a death row inmate’s vital signs during the lethal injection.

The policy conflicts with a recent ruling from the North Carolina Medical Board that prohibits a physician from taking part in executions.

The courts put an indefinite hold on North Carolina's death penalty while questions over execution procedures are worked out.

The other question, will the general assembly make a moratorium law?

Although the role of a doctor in state executions is the latest focus of debate, Kinnaird wants a thorough study of a much broader professional code of ethics.

“It means also nurses. It means pharmacists," she said. "Should they be producing the chemicals that kill people? I think it means EMT people.”

Kinnaird's bill calls for a formal halt to executions until at least June 2009 while the study committee does its work.

House Minority Leader Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake, opposes a death penalty moratorium.

“The same people who want to abolish capital punishment always try to abolish it or put it off,” he said.

Stam believes he is in the majority on this issue. He does not think lawmakers are ready to block state approved executions over protocols.

“The detail about where a doctor is standing or what a doctor's looking at or not looking at is a detail that really doesn't go to the heart of the question at all," Stam said.

Death penalty moratorium legislation has been filed and has failed in recent years. Kinnaird’s bill is the first of many proposals to come up this legislative session.

The  execution protocol approved by the Council of State -- a group of nine state leaders, including the governor, now goes back to court.