Thursday, 25 January 2007

2 N.C. executions halted

2 N.C. executions halted

Procedure for doctor's involvement at issue


A Wake County Superior Court judge this morning halted two planned executions until Gov. Mike Easley and the Council of State approve a new procedure for having a doctor present.

State law requires a doctor to be present at executions. But the American Medical Association opposes doctors' presence or participation in executions as a violation of their oath to save lives. To stay in compliance with state law, the state medical board ruled that a doctor can be present at executions but cannot participate in any way, or else risk losing his or her medical license.

Senior Resident Judge Donald W. Stephens had given the state until 10 a.m. today to prove that the governor and Council of State had approved the more limited role. When it failed, Stephens ordered the executions stopped.

Marcus Robinson was scheduled to die by lethal injection early Friday morning, while James Edward Thomas was to be executed Feb. 2. The inmates' lawyers argued that the N.C. Medical Board's ruling didn't ensure their clients' executions would meet constitutional safeguards.

"We're very pleased at this point, but we'll take it step by step, Geoffrey Hosford, a Wilmington lawyer who represents Robinson, said after Stephens ruled. Hosford then headed to Central Prison to tell his client the news.

The Council of State includes the state's top elected officials, including the Attorney General, the Lt. Governor and the Commissioner of Agriculture.

Read tomorrow's Charlotte Observer for more details on this developing story.

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