True justice: Death-penalty study considered

By: - July 14, 2005 6:42 am

Rocky Mount Telegram

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

North Carolina lawmakers have backed away from a proposed moratorium on the death penalty. That’s too bad because recent cases in which longtime prisoners have been exonerated show the state’s record on justice is far from perfect.

There is some good news, however. The General Assembly may adopt a plan to study the way death-penalty cases are administered. A clause in the compromise legislation suggests that prisoners on death row may win a stay of execution if they can convince a judge that the study could have a bearing on their cases.

That, at least, gives a court another chance to review the circumstances of a particular case.

The idea of making sure death-penalty cases are properly carried out isn’t at odds with the very notion of capital punishment, as some critics have suggested. But the wrongful imprisonments of Darryl Hunt and Allen Gell, to name two, show that North Carolina’s criminal justice system can and does make mistakes.

The death penalty remains a just punishment for criminals whose actions have proved them to be an unreproachable danger to society. Acting on the results of a study will make sure the state is closer than ever to 100 percent accuracy on death-row cases.

Not only will that ease the consciences of North Carolinians, it should result in a more efficient path to justice. That’s a worthy aim for a system that too often flounders with mistakes and delays.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Chris Fitzsimon

Chris Fitzsimon, Founder and Executive Director of N.C. Policy Watch, writes the Fitzsimon File, delivers a radio commentary broadcast on WRAL-FM and hosts "News and Views," a weekly radio news magazine that airs on multiple stations across North Carolina. [email protected] 919-861-2066