MENTAL ILLNESS: North Carolina Man Guilty of Shooting Spree at Nursing Home Avoids Death Penalty

Despite being found guilty of eight murders of mostly elderly people and the prosecution seeking the death penalty, a North Carolina jury recently convicted Robert Stewart of second degree murder, thereby avoiding the possibility of a death sentence.  On September 5, he was sentenced to prison for over 100 years.  Stewart had gone on a shooting spree at a Carthage nursing home in 2009, apparently under the influence of alcohol and prescription drugs.  Although none of the jurors disclosed their rationale for opting for second-degree instead of first-degree murder, both diminished mental capacity and voluntary intoxication were offered as rationales by the Stewart's defense team.  The prosecutor, Peter Strickland, said the families are “getting solace in the fact that he was sentenced to more than 131 years."

(J. Chappell, "Jury Finds Stewart Guilty of 2nd-Degree Murder," The Pilot, September 3, 2011).  See Arbitrariness and Mental Illness.  See also DPIC's Report "Struck by Lightning: The Continuing Arbitrariness of the Death Penalty Thirty-Five Years After Its Reinstatement in 1976."