Death Penalty Litigation

Gretchen Engel, executive director of the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, sits in her Durham office and looks through mandalas and other pictures colored by death row inmate James Davis.
Rebecca Martinez / WUNC

At the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, the filing cabinets in the corner office are adorned with pictures of vibrant mandalas. The intricate geometric patterns were colored in by James Davis. The artist received a Purple Heart for his service during the Vietnam War. Davis reportedly suffers from PTSD and other mental illness. In 1995, Davis murdered three people, and has been on death row ever since. He's an old man now.

GERRY BROOME / ASSOCIATED PRESS

A rush to execute death row inmates in Arkansas led to national concern about the use of the death penalty. In North Carolina, juries continue to send people to death row. They sentenced 16 people to death in the last ten years. But in that time there has not been a single execution. Some are questioning why the country has the death penalty if it is not being used. Others advocate for abolishing it altogether. They say it does not deliver the justice it intended, costs too much, is not administered fairly, and could amount to cruel and unusual punishment.