Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Lethal Injection, North Carolina, & OpEd
The Raleigh News & Observer has, "2 N.C. inmates ask halt to execution, citing doctor's role."
Two North Carolina death row inmates scheduled to die in the next 10 days have asked the courts to stop their executions because they say there's no guarantee they'll die painlessly.
Also Tuesday, 30 Democratic members of the General Assembly asked Gov. Mike Easley to suspend executions immediately until the state can assure its method of lethal injection does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment.
The letter cited Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's recent decision to issue a moratorium there after a botched execution. It said eight other states had halted executions to review the lethal injection process.
State Sen. Eleanor Kinnaird, D-Orange, said in a statement that a bill creating a legislative study commission on lethal injection would be filed "in response to the mounting evidence that the procedure used to execute prisoners in North Carolina has the potential to cause undue and excruciating pain."
The News & Observer also has an OpEd by Matthew Robinson, "The death penalty has outlived its time."
I've just completed a study of scholarly experts on capital punishment -- people who have long taught and conducted research about the death penalty -- and they overwhelmingly oppose the penalty, call for its abolition and favor alternatives that include life imprisonment without parole.
The experts offer three main reasons for their opposition.
First, the death penalty fails to achieve its goals of retribution, deterrence and incapacitation. Because killings so rarely lead to an execution in the United States, capital punishment does not achieve justice for society or for relatives of murder victims, does not sufficiently scare would-be murderers and does not kill enough murderers to have any impact on the murder rate.
Nationally, between 1977 and 2005 there were 575,437 murders and non-negligent homicides. These led to only 6,934 death sentences and 1,004 executions. Thus, only 1.2 percent of the killings led to death sentences, and only 0.17 percent have resulted in an execution so far.
From 1977 to 2005, North Carolina averaged only 14.5 death sentences and 1.6 executions per year, in spite of suffering approximately 594 murders annually. The rarity of the death penalty is precisely why it is so ineffective and inefficient.
Second, the application of the death penalty in the United States is plagued by significant biases based on race, social class and gender.
Killers of whites are far more likely to be executed than killers of blacks -- regardless of the race of the killer -- but especially when the killer is black and the victim is white. Further, virtually every person on death row is poor, consistent with evidence that what determines who gets executed is not the heinousness of the crime but the quality of the defense. And citizens in every state with capital punishment are remarkably squeamish about executing women.
Third, there is a serious risk that capital punishment will be used against the factually innocent. Not only do we know that 113 people have been released from death row since 1977 (including three from North Carolina), some believe that states have recently executed innocent people. Clear cases of innocence have emerged in Texas, Missouri and Florida.
Robinson's book, Death Nation: The Experts Explain American Capital Punishment, will be published in March. I'm adding a link to pre-order the book in the right-hand column.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007 at 10:47 AM in Books, Lethal Injection, OpEd, State Legislation Permalink