Death Penalty Moratorium

I will admit that I am suspicious and confused about the implications of abolishing North Carolina’s death penalty, but Dave Hart got it spot-on in last Sunday’s CHN editorial:

House should heed Hackney’s call

Calls in the General Assembly for a two-year pause in executions by the State of North Carolina have come loudest from our neck of the woods.

Two years ago, state Sen. Ellie Kinnaird of Carrboro sponsored moratorium legislation and succeeded, against steep odds, in getting it passed by the Senate.

Now Rep. Joe Hackney of Chapel Hill is a primary sponsor of a similar bill that is clinging to life in the House. The measure, which would halt executions for two years while a commission explores the fairness and reliability of the system, stalled last week a few votes shy of the total needed for approval. Hackney and other supporters have a few weeks to try to persuade fence-sitting legislators to tip their way.

It may be easy for resistant legislators from the more ruddy areas of the state to dismiss the call for a moratorium as liberal hand wringing by those left-wingers who run southern Orange County.

Many opponents of the measure suspect that it’s actually a back-door push for abolition of the death penalty altogether.

But the bill calls simply for a suspension in executions while a bipartisan commission examines whether the ultimate penalty is fairly and responsibly administered in this state.

This shouldn’t even be a tough call.

If the state is going to put people to death, it had better be rock-solid certain they are guilty. We’ve seen too many convictions overturned in recent years to have that certainty.

To continue administering executions in the face of the record of exonerations and overturned convictions would be irresponsible in the extreme.

Even the most ardent supporter of the death penalty should insist that we take every conceivable step to ensure that it is never administered to an innocent citizen. That’s precisely what the moratorium is intended to do.

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