Friday, April 30, 2010

Two States, Two Responses to Death Penalty Issues

Two different states, on opposite sides of the country, are dealing with death penalty issues in two very different ways. In California, officials are trying to end a moratorium on the death penalty by amending the execution procedures. In North Carolina, officials are dealing with a new law that is being abused by defendants facing the death penalty.

In California, a federal judge had stopped all executions because of concern about the state's three-drug execution procedure. According to the Los Angeles Times, there has not been an execution in California since January, 2006. There are currently 702 killers on death row, more than any other state in the country.

The state's first effort at reform was found to be illegal by a state court. The judge ruled that the state failed to get public comment before adopting the new procedure. This has delayed executions for another year. In fact, the expected legal challenges to the latest reforms will probably delay executions for another year. There are currently 6 death row inmates who have exhausted all appeals and are ready for execution.

California's new procedure includes a drug cocktail with a paralytic component. The paralytic along with a heart stopping drug have been criticized in California and other states as causing excessive pain. Ohio recently adopted a one drug lethal anesthetic to carry out executions. At least two killers have been executed without incident under Ohio's new execution procedure.

In North Carolina, Demetrious Montgomery's murder trial has been delayed 6 months while he pursues overturning a prosecutor's decision to seek the death penalty. Montgomery is charged with the execution style killing of two police officers. Montgomery's attorneys argued they need time to collect information they believe will show that race is a significant factor in seeking and imposing the death penalty.

According to the Charlotte Observer, North Carolina's Racial Justice Act, signed into law last August, allows murder suspects and death-row inmates to try to prove that racial bias was behind a prosecutor's decisions to seek the death penalty or jurors' decisions to impose it.

North Carolina State Senator Malcolm Graham one of the co-sponsors of the law told, "The goal of the act was to make sure if someone was facing execution then they had the opportunity to see whether or not they were being discriminated against based on stats and figures."

Senator Graham went on to say that with regard to the case of Montgomery, the law is not being applied the right way. "Frankly, I think his attorneys are hiding behind this new legislation." Graham told, "I think it's being misused. Anytime you kill a public officer, a police officer, I think you ought to face the ultimate penalty."

To read more:,0,6207366.story

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