The North Carolina House has postponed its vote on the proposed two-year death penalty moratorium until later this month, because its backers can't muster quite enough support. It's worth noting that, while the moratorium movement is certainly full of death penalty abolitionists, this particular proposal is intended to give the state an opportunity to fix its capital-punishment machinery, not do away with it. In fact, prosecutors could still seek the death penalty, and defendants could still be sentenced to death. The state would merely refrain from killing anybody while figuring out whether its system for deciding whom to kill is any better than the one described in this favorite of high school English teachers.

Some accounts have the moratorium just one or two votes shy of passing, despite the opposition of most Republicans and a good number of Democrats, including Gov. Mike Easley. The governor has a hard time focusing on anything that doesn't involve the word "lottery," so that Shirley Jackson story might come in handy after all...