Death penalty bill sparks controversy

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By Rachel Johnson, Staff Writer

A bill to end a de-facto moratorium on the death penalty in North Carolina was filed earlier this month in the North Carolina General Assembly.

Sen. Thom Goolsby, (R-New Hanover) filed legislation to re-start the death penalty in North Carolina. His goal is “to ensure justice for more than 100 North Carolina families whose loved ones’ lives were brutally taken.”

Despite having 152 inmates on death row, the state hasn’t conducted an execution since 2006. This has been a result of legal challenges that resulted in a de-facto moratorium on the death penalty.

“We have a moral obligation to ensure death-row criminals convicted of the most heinous crimes imaginable finally face justice,” Goolsby said. “Victims’ families have suffered for far too long. It’s time to stop the legal wrangling and bring them the peace and closure they deserve.”

Senate Bill 306 would reverse the Racial Justice Act enacted in 2009.

Local attorney James Payne recently spoke out about the issue.

“The movement to repeal the Racial Justice Act sends the message that racial discrimination is acceptable in the North Carolina justice system,” Payne said. “The public posture that the RJA is an ‘end run’ around the execution of death row inmates unfortunately masks the true object of the act: to spare the lives of those who suffered from discrimination in the very trial that placed them on death row.

“The purpose…is to take those convicted murderers on death row who arrived there as a result of discrimination in their trial and place them in prison for the rest of their natural lives (life without the possibility of parole).”

According to statistics Payne compiled, in 2012 in North Carolina no jury sentenced anyone to death, there have been no executions in six years and murder rates are declining.

 “Repealing the RJA ‘short cuts’ justice. When we ‘short cut’ justice, we all lose,” Payne said.

The last capital murder conviction in Brunswick County was in 2006, when a jury sentenced Darrell Wayne Maness to death in the killing of Boiling Spring Lakes police officer Mitch Prince.

Maness, now 27, has been on death row in Central Prison in Raleigh since April 4, 2006, the day of his conviction in a Brunswick County courtroom.

The last person to be executed in the state by lethal injection was Samuel Russell Flippen on Aug. 18, 2006. He was convicted of killing 2-year-old Britnie Hutton. Flippen was the 43rd person executed in the state since the death penalty was adopted in 1977.

To view Senate Bill 306 visit www.ncleg.net/Sessions/2013/Bills/Senate/PDF/S306v1.pdf.

For more on Payne’s reaction visit http://jamespaynelaw.com.


Rachel Johnson is a staff writer at The Brunswick Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or rjohnson@brunswickbeacon.com.