The Wilmington Star News publishes the editorial,"N.C. lawmakers rushing too quickly to increase executions."
More and faster executions should not be a proud goal of the N.C. General Assembly, but state Sen. Thom Goolsby and other leaders want to take the state in that direction by pushing hard to resume the death penalty in earnest.
Although still legal in North Carolina, the death penalty has been on a downward path. The last execution in the state was in 2006, in large part because lawsuits challenging how lethal injections were administered led to a de facto moratorium; this year the Honorables approved a new method considered more humane, comparatively speaking.
Nationally, death sentences have declined in recent years in part because of a number of high-profile cases in which a death row inmate has been cleared by DNA or other evidence. Illinois, where series of such cases led to a 10-year moratorium on executions, abolished the death penalty in 2011. North Carolina's most compelling case involved the exoneration of death row inmate Alan Gell, who was in jail on a car theft charge when the murder he was sentenced to die for took place.
Paralleling the national pattern, over the past two years only one trial in North Carolina has resulted in a death sentence.
"In quiet trend, executions in US are falling dramatically," is the Asheville Citizen-Times editorial.
Six states have abolished capital punishment in the last six years. Thirty states, the federal government and the District of Columbia have not carried out any executions in the last five years.
North Carolina is one of the 30. The last person executed was Samuel Flippen, on Aug. 18, 2006. “Since that time,” according to a UNC School of Government report, “there has been a de facto moratorium on executions, as a result of several related challenges to the death penalty system.”
Only 11 people have been sentenced to Death Row in North Carolina in the last five years, only one of them in 2013.
Why the slowdown? There always have been those who oppose capital punishment on the grounds that government has no business putting people to death, period. Those people, however, remain in the minority.
Then there are those such as Steve Monks, a self-described “staunch conservative” and former chair of the Durham County GOP, who argue that the death penalty is too expensive and has no demonstrated deterrent effect.
Mostly, however, the growing opposition concerns the question of fairness. A Gallup Poll shows that while 60 percent of our people still favor capital punishment — in itself the lowest number in four decades — 40 percent do not believe the death penalty is administered fairly.
"A Matter of Life and Death," is the news report by Michael Abernethy, in the Burlington Times-News.
In 2013, there were only five death penalty trials in North Carolina. One of those was held in Alamance County, for Robert Dennis Dixon, 49, who was sentenced to life for having his stepmother killed in 2007.
Only one of the five cases resulted in a death sentence. Mario Andrette McNeill, 33, was convicted in May of kidnapping, sexually assaulting and murdering a 5-year-old Cumberland County girl in 2009. He was the first person placed on North Carolina’s death row since 2011.
Those figures — five trials, one death verdict — are a far cry from the dozens of capital murder trials held each year during the 1990s. From 1993 to 2002, 214 people were sentenced to die in North Carolina. From 2003 to 2013, 34 men were placed on death row.
Earlier coverage from North Carolina begins at the link.