A misguided push in the General Assembly to get capital punishment back on track is generating a well-deserved pushback. People of Faith Against the Death Penalty, a group that for years has helped focus the case against executions, is bringing religious leaders to the Legislative Building as the debate again heats up. PFADP got its start as a program of the Council; we strongly support its stance and encourage legislators to listen with open minds and hearts.
North Carolina has not put anyone to death since 2006. In the meantime, the punishment of life in prison without possibility of parole has found favor with juries newly attuned to flaws in the justice system. People convicted of murder have been exonerated – relief that could come too late if the death penalty had been imposed.
A bill in the state Senate would remove several legal barriers that have helped keep an unofficial death penalty moratorium in place. And it would repeal all traces of the 2009 Racial Justice Act, intended to let condemned inmates show via statistics that their cases could have been tainted by racial discrimination and thus have their sentences changed to life without parole.
The religious figures who will come to the Legislative Building on Wednesday oppose repeal of the Racial Justice Act. Surely while the death penalty remains on the books, it should be imposed free of any racial bias on the part of prosecutors or juries. Scrapping the penalty altogether, as has occurred in several other states, would be an even better course in the interests of justice for victims, defendants and the public at large.
–Steve Ford, Volunteer Program Associate