News&Observer: Editorial: Face up to the facts and end the death penalty

Editorial by Dr. Matthew Robinson of Appalachian State University

“Illinois just made history, becoming the 16th state in the United States to outlaw capital punishment. North Carolina should become the 17th state to abolish the death penalty.

What is different in North Carolina? Seven people have been freed from death row here since 1973, ranking the state seventh in the number of errors nationwide (Illinois is ranked second).

Six of the seven men were wrongly convicted after the death penalty was reinstated in 1977 and thus were convicted under the current North Carolina death penalty statute, or “super due process.” Five men were wrongly convicted between 1993 and 1997 and ultimately exonerated between 1999 and 2008.

Serious malfeasance in the State Bureau of Investigation’s crime lab was also recently discovered, showing flawed blood evidence was used in more than 200 cases. In seven of the cases people were sentenced to death, and three of them were executed.

Stated simply, we make mistakes too. Lots of them.

A study of North Carolina’s death penalty system from 1977 through 2009 found the error rate in the state to be 67 percent, meaning two out of every three death sentences were overturned on appeal. Compare this with the only 20 percent of death sentences that have thus far led to an execution and you understand that the system of capital punishment in the state is broken.

Editorial available here: Face up to the facts and end the death penalty


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