By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
March 14, 2013
RALEIGH — A bill filed Wednesday by Sen. Thom Goolsby (R-New Hanover) would restore the death penalty in North Carolina and help the state bring its justice system in line with Genesis 9:6.
“God’s Word declares to governments of all eras: ‘Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man,’” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League.
Sen. Goolsby said the bill would ensure justice for more than 100 North Carolina families whose loved ones were slain.
“We have a moral obligation to ensure death-row criminals convicted of the most heinous crimes imaginable finally face justice,” he said in a press release referencing the state’s 152 death row inmates. “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.”
Although convicted killers can still be sentenced to death in North Carolina, legal challenges and overreaching restrictions from the N.C. Medical Board have created a de-facto moratorium since 2006. That’s when a case was filed claiming that lethal injection was “cruel and unusual” punishment. As a result a federal judge required the state to begin checking condemned inmates for indications of pain as their sentence was carried out, which in turn led the Medical Board to threaten to punish any physician who participated in capital punishment, saying such action would violate the basic medical precept of doing “no harm.”
The North Carolina Supreme Court later ruled that the board had overstepped its bounds and could not punish doctors for simply following the state law that requires a physician to be present at executions. Senate Bill 306 would codify this ruling and allow doctors, nurses and pharmacists to participate in executions without fear of reprimand from state licensing boards, while it would also give the Secretary of Public Safety flexibility to develop “the most humane and constitutionally-sound method possible” to execute by lethal injection.
Following on the heels of last year’s scaling back of the Racial Justice Act, the bill would completely repeal the 2009 law, which had allowed nearly every death row criminal to file an appeal.
“The Racial Justice Act has done nothing for North Carolinians in terms of public safety and has given death row inmates an easy means to avoid just punishment for their crimes using information from unpublished or biased studies and unrelated cases,” said Wayne Uber, a victims’ rights advocate from Chapel Hill whose twin brother was murdered in 1995.
“Matters of bias were already grounds for appeal prior to implementing the RJA. The RJA was poorly written, ramrodded through an emotional legislature/governorship, and in practice has obstructed justice,” he added.
Dr. Creech pointed out that death row inmates already receive extensive due process, which accounts for an average of 12 years of appeals.
To further get the death penalty back on track, Goolsby’s office said his bill would bring certainty to the timeline of when the Attorney General starts the legal process toward execution and when the Secretary of Public Safety schedules an execution and would require the Attorney General to update the Legislature annually on the status of pending post-conviction capital cases.
Uber, whose brother’s killer is serving two life sentences in Florida, said there are victims’ families on both sides of the capital punishment debate and that sentencing in civilized societies “is a matter for the courts to consider based on logic, facts and the law.”
Nonetheless, he said ending the de-facto moratorium would bring relief to at least some families of capital murder victims.
“For the past seven years none of those who’ve sought executions for the individuals who murdered their loved ones have seen justice,” he said. “Legislators need to be reminded that bias can be eliminated on an individual basis from our courts during appeals. The RJA has worked only for those who wish to obstruct executions.”
Dr. Creech said the primary purpose of the death penalty is not personal revenge, but retribution exacted by a government to maintain order. “According to Christian thought, no one has the right for any reason to harbor malice, anger or bitterness toward someone on a personal level – personal vengeance is denied. This is what Christ was preaching in Matthew 5:38-45,” Creech said. “Still He affirmed retributive justice by His own death on the Cross, and Paul said the government bears the sword as ‘the minister of God’ for good and is an ‘avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil’ (Romans 13:4).”
“Social peace comes only when compassion is directed toward the victims of crime and not its perpetrators,” he added. “Retribution is the primary purpose of law and not the rehabilitation of the criminal or deterrence to criminal acts.”
Senate Bill 306, titled “Capital Punishment/Amendments,” has support among Senate leadership, according to WRAL.
To watch Sen. Thom Goolsby’s video explaining the proposed legislation, go to http://www.thomgoolsby.com/