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In the Bible Belt, Christmas Isn’t Coming to Death Row

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When it comes to the death penalty, guilt or innocence shouldn’t really matter to Christians.  

NASHVILLE — Until August, Tennessee had not put a prisoner to death in nearly a decade. Last Thursday, it performed its third execution in four months.
This was not a surprising turn of events. In each case, recourse to the courts had been exhausted. In each case Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, declined to intervene, though there were many reasons to justify intervening. Billy Ray Irick suffered from psychotic breaks that raised profound doubts about his ability to distinguish right from wrong. Edmund Zagorksi’s behavior in prison was so exemplary that even the warden pleaded for his life. David Earl Miller also suffered from mental illness and was a survivor of child abuse so horrific that he tried to kill himself when he was 6 years old.
Questions about the humanity of Tennessee’s lethal-injection protocol were so pervasive following the execution of Mr. Irick that both Mr. Zagorski and M…

Has the death penalty come to an end in North Carolina?

Jury box
This case is about the constitutional protection every person in America deserves. It is not about whether Marcus Reymond Robinson, Quintel Augustine, Christina Walters and Tilmon Golphin deserve our sympathy. They don't.

Golphin and his brother killed a Cumberland County deputy and a state trooper in a 1997 traffic stop. Walters led some gang members on an initiation ritual that saw 2 women randomly kidnapped and killed in 1998. Augustine killed a Fayetteville police officer in 2001 - although he claims he was wrongfully convicted and is factually innocent. And Robinson killed a teenager in a 1991 robbery.

The crimes was horrific enough that they challenged our opposition to the death penalty.

But that's the other factor here: The public and even many politicians are losing their taste for executions. The last one in North Carolina was 12 years ago and there are none scheduled, despite having 143 inmates on death row. If this state is caught up in the national trend, it's possible that the death penalty has already come to a de facto end.

These 4 were removed from death row in 2012 when a judge found black jurors were illegally blocked from serving on their juries. Under the provisions of the state's Racial Justice Act, passed in 2009, their sentences were changed to life imprisonment with no chance of parole.

The state appealed that verdict and in 2015 the N.C. Supreme Court said the trial judge had erred in the way he held the hearing and the state deserved another chance to make its case. The 4 killers were returned to death row. And around the same time, the General Assembly repealed the Racial Justice Act.

But now the 4 say their 5th Amendment rights against double jeopardy were violated when their death sentences were reinstated. The U.S. Supreme Court has interpreted the amendment to mean that once a death sentence has been revoked for a specific crime, it can't be reimposed.

As for whether the 4 should be executed, that's another question that also seems separate from this appeal. It appears the state has distanced itself from carrying out executions, but politicians lack the backbone to discuss the issue and decide whether it's time to change this state's maximum penalty for capital crimes to life without parole.

The best we can expect from this case is a simple ruling on a 5th amendment issue. We'll have to wait for another time to see the debate we really need to have.

Source: Charlotte Observer, Opinion; Editorial Board, July 21, 2018


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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed,
but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

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