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Nevada organization calls for greater Latino engagement in politics; Gov. Gavin Newsom appears to change course on transgender rights; Nebraska Tribal College builds opportunity 'pipelines,' STEM workforce.'

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House Republicans deadlock over funding days before the government shuts down, a New Deal-style jobs training program aims to ease the impacts of climate change, and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas appeared at donor events for the right-wing Koch network.

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An Indigenous project in South Dakota seeks to protect tribal data sovereignty, advocates in North Carolina are pushing back against attacks on public schools, and Arkansas wants the hungriest to have access to more fruits and veggies.

More NC Jurors Reject the Death Penalty

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Monday, December 17, 2018   

DURHAM, N.C. — For the first time in the state's modern history, North Carolina juries have rejected the death penalty for two consecutive years.

There were only three capital trials in North Carolina this year - one each in Lee, Scotland and Wake counties. All three juries chose life without parole for the defendants instead of death sentences. Gretchen Engel, executive director at the Raleigh-based Center for Death Penalty Litigation, has represented clients on death row and said more jurors are becoming educated about bias in the legal system.

"Jurors are turning away from the death penalty and, in response to less favorable jury pools, prosecutors are seeking the death penalty less,” Engel said. “And so, this trend away from the death penalty is really being led by citizens who've been summoned for jury duty."

Engel said now, there's greater public awareness about factors like race, geography and economic status that play a role in determining a person's guilt or innocence. North Carolina also has been home to a number of high-profile wrongful convictions in the past decade.

In light of these factors, death-penalty opponents ask why some prosecutors continue to seek it. In Wake County, juries have declined to issue death sentences in nine consecutive capital cases.

Engel said capital trials also are longer and more complex, and therefore, more expensive. According to the N.C. Office of Indigent Defense Services, if the Wake County cases had not been tried as capital cases, taxpayers might have saved nearly $2.4 million.

"So, the one outlier in North Carolina is Wake County, [which] year after year is having capital trials, losing those capital trials - and yet, continues to waste money and court time and resources,” she said.

Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman has said, "There are times when the facts of the case are so egregious, so terrible, that we believe it's appropriate for the community to make the decision in the case through the jury process." North Carolina has not carried out any executions since 2006.



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