News&Observer: Editorial: Death on hold

“With the credibility of the State Bureau of Investigation’s crime lab in serious doubt, an unusual call for a moratorium on the use of the death penalty comes from Seth Edwards of Washington, current president of the N.C. Conference of District Attorneys. His words should be heeded.

That Edwards would cite the problems with the SBI lab (revealed in a News & Observer series and in an audit of cases involving blood analysis done for Attorney General Roy Cooper) as a reason not to execute, for now, any death-row inmates who were up against SBI evidence in their trials should be a statement of the obvious. But at least he said it.

There are other problems as well, with some minority prisoners protesting sentences they say were influenced by racial bias. And indeed, statistics showing that blacks have been disproportionately excluded from juries in capital cases and that a substantial percentage of death-row inmates were tried by all- or mostly white juries do raise questions.

But the lab problems – with many cases involved, with many district attorneys talking about doing their own investigations, with calls for the creation of an independent lab not under the control of law enforcement – demand an immediate moratorium on executions in cases where lab evidence was used.

Trying to proceed with the ultimate end to the judicial process in such cases would be like trying to fly a kite in a hurricane.”

«Death on hold

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