Tuesday, 6 February 2007

Council of State Approves Death Penalty Protocol

Council of State Approves Death Penalty Protocol

Death Row, Death Penalty, Execution (Generic)
The Council of State approved a revised plan Tuesday set forth by the state Department of Correction for carrying out the death penalty in North Carolina.

The controversy centers around the role doctors play in the death chamber. The state Medical Board ruled that doctors can be present for executions, but they cannot participate. The state Department of Correction released a protocol that appears to clash with that ruling.

Several members of the Council of State were concerned about being bought into the death penalty debate.

"This body is not equipped to conduct a policy discussion. I don't know a better way to make that point other than we aren't even allowed to hear to people," said State Treasurer Richard Moore.

"I don't find that we don't have jurisdiction to even get into an issue like this," said State Insurance Commissioner Jim Long. "I'm very concerned about the Council of State trying to override the state Medical Board."

In the end, the Council of State approved the state Department of Correction's protocol, which calls on a doctor to monitor the condemned inmate's body functions and notify the warden if it appears the prisoner is suffering. At that point, the execution would be stopped.

Long, along with Secretary of State Elaine Marshall and state Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson, voted against the revised plan.

So far, the controversy has put three scheduled executions on hold. Attorneys for death row inmates said they were frustrated with the Council of State's decision.

"The way things have been done today is backwards," said attorney Ann Groninger. "Here we are presenting a protocol to the Council of State, which is in conflict with the statute authorizing the medical board to regulate the practice of medicine."

Gov. Mike Easley said Tuesday's vote was necessary to move the issue along so it can go to the courts and then back to the Legislature. Easley said he does not expect executions in North Carolina to resume anytime soon.

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