One bill would call for a death penalty moratorium, giving lawmakers time to study whether the death penalty is applied fairly. Another bill would allow a judge to determine whether race was the primary reason prosecutors decided to seek the death penalty against a defendant.
A third bill would ban the death penalty for people with an IQ of less than 70. Sen. Frank Ballance (D-Warren) supports the idea.
"We do not execute young people 17 years of age or younger," he said. "A mentally retarded person, by definition, is a child."
Twelve North Carolina cities, including Cary and Durham, have passed resolutions supporting a death penalty moratorium. In a statewide poll last summer, 59 percent of North Carolinians favored a moratorium.
Two executions are scheduled in March. Sixteen inmates have been executed in North Carolina since 1984.