The North Carolina Court of Appeals sent back to a lower court on Tuesday a case over who decides how death row prisoners are executed. The court says the case has changed too much for it to make an
North Carolina's death row inmates are housed at Central Prison in Raleigh.
Credit North Carolina Department of Public Safety
opinion. It started out with four death-row inmates who said the state’s method of execution was cruel and unusual. Then the state changed its procedures and now the inmates say the state didn’t go through a required public review to make the changes. On the other hand, the attorney general’s office asked the appeals court to say the state Secretary of Public Safety could decide how to carry out executions without getting an outside opinion. In its ruling, the appeals court has ordered the Wake County Superior Court to sort out the issue. There are 151 death row inmates in North Carolina. A series of lawsuits, including this one, have blocked executions since 2006.
Prosecutors in Wake County are selecting a jury in a first-degree murder trial this week. It is the fifth case in North Carolina this year where a defendant could face capital punishment. But a series of lawsuits have blocked the death penalty for years in this state. And now, a little-known drug could become another obstacle.
Advocates of the state's Racial Justice Act are hailing a judge's ruling today that race was a factor in a death row inmate's jury selection. Marcus Robinson was sentenced in 1994 for murder. Superior Court Judge Gregory Weeks ruled that prosecutors in the trial disqualified potential black jurors more often than others. Stephen Dear with People of Faith Against the Death Penalty says he thinks this decision shows that bias has played a role in convictions.