The death penalty debate continues to heat up in North Carolina. The Raleigh News & Observer reports that while Black leaders and anti-death penalty groups continue to push the state legislature to pass a law that would allow defendants facing death to challenge prosecutors' decisions as racially biased, some Republicans are suggesting the measure be paired with a move to restart executions in North Carolina.
As Facing South previously reported, the North Carolina House has already passed a bill that would allow murder defendants the use of statistical evidence to show that race was a significant factor in prosecutors seeking the death penalty or in juries imposing it. The North Carolina branch of the NAACP is now working with Democrats in the state Senate to approve the measure.
But for the measure to gain enough support from Republicans to pass, it may have to be paired with a move to restart the state's stalled executions. According to the News & Observer:
If Senate Democrats move forward with it, Republicans see a chance to get something they've been fighting for - a provision that may allow the state to resume executions.
Executions have been stalled for more than a year, partly because the Department of Correction cannot find doctors who will take part in them, as the law requires. Last year, the N.C. Medical Board adopted an ethics policy that forbids doctors from doing anything more than being present at executions.
The compromise could include the North Carolina Legislature adopting a measure overriding the ethics panel decision, granting professional immunity for doctors to administer executions in exchange for supporting the statistics bill, the newspaper said.
Advocates of the racial bias measure do not want to see the two issues combined. "[The racial bias bill] should stand alone," Rev. William Barber, North Carolina NAACP president, told the News & Observer. "This is about death, and this is about people dying simply because of their race."