Death Row

A picture of a syringe.
hitthatswitch / Flickr

Earlier this week, a judge in North Carolina determined the Craig Steven Hicks would be eligible for the death penalty for his role in the shootings of three students in Chapel Hill.  But the state of North Carolina has not put anyone to death since 2006.  The state is one of 34 in the country that allows the death penalty, but the practice here is rarely used.  That was not always the case.

Execution chamber
Wikipedia

Stephen Lich Tyler drove to Texas last week to witness the execution of his father’s killer, Ramiro Hernandez Llanas. Before he left, he spoke on The State of Things about his struggles with the decision to attend and his expectations of the execution. He returned to the studio today to talk with host Frank Stasio about the experience and how it shaped his perspective on the death penalty.

Lethal injection room
Wikipedia

On Wednesday night, the State of Texas executed Ramiro Hernandez-Llanas, a man convicted of the 1997 killing of professor Glen Lich.

Hernandez-Llanas was an immigrant hired to work on the Lich property when he lured Lich outside the home and beat him to death. He then returned to the house and attacked Lich's wife.

Lich was not Hernandez-Llanas's first murder victim. Hernandez-Llanas had escaped from Mexican prison where he was serving a 25-year sentence for murder.

Photo: Death row inmates are housed at Central Prison in Raleigh. No executions have been carried out in North Carolina since 2006.
North Carolina Department of Public Safety

The North Carolina Court of Appeals sent back to a lower court on Tuesday a case over who decides how death row prisoners are executed.  The court says the case has changed too much for it to make an   opinion.  It started out with four death-row inmates who said the state’s method of execution was cruel and unusual.

Photo: The lethal injection room at San Quentin State Prison
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation / Public Doman

Prosecutors in Wake County are selecting a jury in a first-degree murder trial this week. It is the fifth case in North Carolina this year where a defendant could face capital punishment. But a series of lawsuits have blocked the death penalty for years in this state. And now, a little-known drug could become another obstacle.

One hundred and thirty eight people have been exonerated of capital crimes and released from death row since 1973. These tragic stories don't always get told, but two professors wanted to make sure that the voices of some exonerees were heard. Saundra Westervelt and Kimberly Cook explore the post-incarceration struggle of 18 of them in their new book “Life After Death Row: Exonerees’ Search for Community and Identity” (Rutgers University Press/2012).

State lawmakers have overridden the governor's veto of a bill that waters down the Racial Justice Act. The Act, passed in 2009, allows death row prisoners to challenge their sentences based on statistical evidence of discrimination. The new bill will limit the time frame and scope of statistics that inmates can use to challenge their sentences. Republican House Majority Leader Paul Stam thinks that's reasonable.

Republican legislative leaders are expected to try to override the governor's veto of a measure that would water down the Racial Justice Act. The Act, passed in 2009, allows death row prisoners to appeal their sentences using statistical evidence of discrimination.

Advocates of the state's Racial Justice Act are hailing a judge's ruling today that race was a factor in a death row inmate's jury selection. Marcus Robinson was sentenced in 1994 for murder. Superior Court Judge Gregory Weeks ruled that prosecutors in the trial disqualified potential black jurors more often than others. Stephen Dear with People of Faith Against the Death Penalty says he thinks this decision shows that bias has played a role in convictions.