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Death Penalty

The death penalty is discriminatory and arbitrary and inherently violates the Constitutional ban against cruel and unusual punishment. The ACLU opposes the death penalty in all circumstances, and looks forward to the day when the United States joins the majority of nations in abolishing it. In North Carolina, the ACLU-NC has worked hard to help pass and defend the Racial Justice Act, which seeks to address racial bias in the state's capital punishment system. 

2016 Paul Green Award Recipient: Darryl Hunt

Posted on in Death Penalty

For many years, the ACLU of North Carolina has recognized people who have made important contributions to abolish or reform the death penalty with the annual Paul Green Award. This year, at the 2016 Liberty Awards Dinner on Saturday, April 2, we are honoring someone who has brought attention to the injustice of the death penalty in an extremely personal way: Darryl Hunt spent 19 years in prison and was almost sentenced to death for a crime he didn't commit.

At 19 years old, Darryl was arrested, charged, and convicted of a 1984 North Carolina murder he didn't commit. Eleven of 12 jurors wanted to sentence him to death, but one refused to waver and he was spared being executed. Although DNA results proved his innocence in 1994, it took another 10 years of legal appeals to exonerate him.

2016 Liberty Awards Dinner: Protecting Democracy
Featuring the Annual Frank Porter Graham Award & keynote speaker Dale Ho, Director of the ACLU's Voting Rights Project
Saturday, April 2 at 5 p.m.
William and Ida Friday Center
100 Friday Center Drive, Chapel Hill, NC
Reserve your early bird tickets today!

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RALEIGH – A coalition of human rights groups is urging Gov. Pat McCrory to veto a bill that would hide the source of lethal injection drugs used to execute prisoners on death row and remove the requirement that a qualified physician be present at all executions.

The groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, the Carolina Justice Policy Center, the N.C. Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, People of Faith Against the Death Penalty, Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation, and the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, argue that HB 774 is a dangerous proposal that would make executions more secretive, increase the risk of botched executions, and ensure continued legal challenges to the death penalty in North Carolina.

“Less than a year after other states have botched executions as a result of using experimental drugs obtained in secret, it would be foolhardy for North Carolina to go down the same road,” said Sarah Preston, acting executive director of the ACLU of North Carolina. “This bill would increase the likelihood of a botched execution in North Carolina, hide basic information about executions from public access, and needlessly waste taxpayer dollars on the inevitable lawsuits that will follow. Governor McCrory should take a stand for transparency and accountability and veto this bill without delay.”

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A dangerous bill heading to Governor Pat McCrory would remove transparency from capital punishment in North Carolina. HB 774 would no longer require doctors to be present at executions and would allow the state to keep secret information about lethal injection drugs used to kill inmates.

Tell Gov. McCrory that executions carried out in the public's name must be transparent. Urge him to veto HB 774!

Horrifically botched executions in other states have demonstrated that we need more transparency, not less, when it comes to who is supervising executions and which drugs are being used to kill inmates.

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RALEIGH – North Carolina could hide the source of lethal injection drugs used to execute prisoners on death row under a bill approved by the state Senate today. HB 774 would also remove the requirement that a qualified physician be present at all executions and would instead allow any medical professional to assist in the execution. A version of the bill has already been approved by the House. The House will need to approve the Senate version before it heads to Gov. Pat McCrory.

“Horrifically botched executions in other states have demonstrated that we need more transparency, not less, when it comes to who is supervising executions and which drugs are being used to kill inmates,” said Sarah Preston, acting executive director of the ACLU of North Carolina. “North Carolina can’t hide behind a veil of secrecy when it carries out this ultimate and irreversible punishment. Courts, lawyers and the public have a right to know basic details about how the government executes inmates in their name. We urge Gov. McCrory to veto this bill in order to keep capital punishment transparent and spare the state costly legal challenges.”

Experimental, untested drug combinations were used in the horrifically botched and tortuous 2014 executions of Clayton Lockett (Oklahoma), Joseph Wood (Arizona), and Dennis McGuire (Ohio).

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Getting It Dead Wrong for 30 Years

Posted on in Death Penalty
By Cassandra Stubbs, Director, ACLU Capital Punishment Project

According to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Henry Lee McCollum deserved to die for the brutal rape and murder of 11-year-old Sabrina Buie. There's just one problem, and a frequent one in death penalty cases: Henry Lee McCollum didn't do it.

Instead of tracking down the true killer, police and prosecutors went after Henry Lee McCollum and his half-brother Leon Brown, two intellectually disabled and innocent teenagers. While his mother wept in the hallway, not allowed to see her son, officers interrogated McCollum for five hours, ultimately coercing him to sign a confession they had written. In a trial without forensic evidence and plagued by racial bias, these two half-brothers with IQs in the 50s and 60s were sent to death row. Henry Lee McCollum and Leon Brown, whose sentence was later reduced to life in prison, have been behind bars for the last 30 years.

Last week, they were finally exonerated in another disturbing example of how deeply flawed the death penalty is, particularly for African-American men in the South.

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