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Slow Death of Capital Punishment in NC

North Carolina juries and prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in fewer cases, according to data released by the Death Penalty Information Center. (DodgertonSkillhause/morguefile.com)
North Carolina juries and prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in fewer cases, according to data released by the Death Penalty Information Center. (DodgertonSkillhause/morguefile.com)
December 17, 2015

RALEIGH, N.C. – The death penalty is on the books in North Carolina, but not on the minds of the justice system.

There were no new death sentences this year in the Tar Heel State, and it's been nearly a decade since there was an execution in the state.

Gretchen Engel, executive director of the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, says public opinion has shown a significant shift in recent years.

"The public at least has figured out that we don't need the death penalty, and the legislators in Raleigh need to catch up with the public on where they are in terms of the death penalty," she stresses.

The trend in North Carolina of a decrease in the use of capital punishment mirrors the national trend.

There were 26 executions in six states this year, the fewest since 1991. Juries handed down only 49 new death sentences, the fewest in the modern era, according to a report released Wednesday by the Death Penalty Information Center.

Engel also points to recent cases where it was proved that death row inmates were wrongly convicted of their crime, and the financial cost of death penalty cases.

"Even with all the safeguards that we have, we continue to convict innocent people,” she points out. “This is a very costly failsafe, particularly when you think of the fact that we have life without parole."

According to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting program, North Carolina's murder rate has declined since 1990. At the same time, the state’s use of the death penalty has also declined.




Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC