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Poll: End North Carolina Death Penalty?

December 13, 2010

RALEIGH, N.C. - A majority of people in North Carolina are willing to consider ending their state's death penalty, according to a new poll released today by the Fair Trial Initiative. The survey found that recent news of wrongful convictions and tainted forensic evidence at the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) labs are prompting people to reconsider the controversial punishment.

Mark Kleinschmidt, executive director of the Fair Trial Initiative in Durham, explains the poll results.

"North Carolinians are saying two to one: 'Don't execute anyone until we can be sure that all the evidence was good evidence, and the testing points to the guilty party.'"

Those in favor of the death penalty argue that it still has a place in the justice system for the most extreme crimes. In the poll, 80-percent of respondents identified themselves as either moderate or conservative.

Advocates for ending the death penalty claim that doing so would save $11 million a year in capital punishment costs to the state. Kleinschmidt explains why it's so expensive.

"The way that our death penalty system is operating in North Carolina, it's hard to imagine a less-efficient use of taxpayer dollars. It gives us pause."

In addition to issues with evidence-handling at the North Carolina SBI crime labs, studies have pointed to a racial bias in death sentences. This led to the passage of the Racial Justice Act last year; it allows inmates who can prove racial bias to have their sentence converted to life in prison without parole.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - NC