By Hunter Hines
Christian Action League
July 29, 2015
RALEIGH – The North Carolina General Assembly approved a measure this week aimed at restarting executions in the state.
North Carolina has essentially experienced a defacto moratorium on the death penalty for nine years. There have been various legal challenges to the state’s lethal injection protocol. Although the 2009 Racial Justice Act was repealed in 2013, the legislation allowed death row inmates to appeal their convictions if racial bias may have played a role in their sentencing. Moreover, in 2007, the North Carolina Medical Board declared that physician participation in death penalty sentences violates their professional ethics – a decision that blocked doctors from participating in executions. These many complications effectively ended the exercise of capital punishment in the state.
HB 774 – Restoring Proper Justice Act seeks to remove current obstacles to North Carolina carrying out the death penalty.
First, it repeals the current law requiring that a doctor must monitor the lethal injection process during an execution. HB 774 would allow a medical professional other than a physician to perform that task. Among those named that could now do the job is a licensed or credentialed physician assistant, nurse practitioner, registered nurse, emergency medical technician or emergency medical technician-paramedic. A doctor, however, would still be needed to be on the premises to certify a death.
Second, it clarifies that the execution procedure is exempted from the rulemaking and contested case requirements.
Third, it eases the restrictions to secure the necessary drugs, their dosage and the kind used for lethal injection. It also provides confidentiality to the drug manufacturers and other suppliers for executions.
The passage of HB 774 comes on the heels of a June 29th 5-4 decision by the United States Supreme Court that said the state of Oklahoma may use the sedative midazolam to render inmates unconscious during a lethal injection. Oklahoma was unable to obtain the barbiturates traditionally used because pharmaceutical companies were unwilling to sell them for use in capital punishment cases.
Sen. Angela Bryant (D-Nash), an outspoken opponent of HB 774, argued that the bill tries to circumvent opposition to what is a controversial act. Bryant put forward an amendment contending executions by the state should be subject to the public rule-making process, something which existing law does not require. Her amendment failed.
The North Carolina chapter of the ACLU, as well as other death penalty opponents also opposed the measure.
But Rep. Leo Daughtry (R-Johnston), the primary sponsor of the bill argued if lawmakers wanted to take up a debate on the death penalty and do away with it that was one thing. Still, if the state has the law, he said, it should get back to enforcing it.
Dr. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, said he backs the legislation. He said it is only right the legislature clears the way for the death penalty to resume.
“The death penalty is deeply rooted in Genesis chapter 9,” he said. “This ultimate sentence is morally right and the state must endeavor to exercise it fairly and equitably. At the present, North Carolina has 149 people on death row – people who have committed the most heinous of crimes. Plenty of caution is already exercised to a fault to prevent a wrongful execution. But when executions are delayed to the degree they have in our state in recent years, well, justice delayed is justice denied,” he said.
Governor Pat McCrory has not signaled as to whether he would sign the measure.
If the Governor signs the law, it will likely garner challenges in court.