NEW VOICES: North Carolina District Attorney Notes Decline in Death Sentences

North Carolina's News & Observer recently reported on the declining use of the death penalty in the state. North Carolina has over 150 inmates on death row but has not had an execution since 2006. Last month, a jury opted for a sentence of life without parole for Samuel Cooper, who was convicted of five first-degree murders. Jim Woodall, president of the N.C. Conference of District Attorneys, said this decline points to a climate against trying capital cases. "If you can't get the death penalty in that case, gee, what case are you going to get the death penalty in? You have to have almost the perfect trial for it to be upheld."  The decline of the death penalty in North Carolina follows a nationwide trend and may reflect public reaction to wrongful convictions, racial disparities in sentencing, and geographical differences in seeking the death penalty, all of which have been a factor in the state.  Woodall, who is also the Orange-Chatham district attorney, said it is not clear that leaders still strongly support a death penalty in the state.

"The will of the state is not clear," he said.

 (A. Blythe, "Death penalty cases dwindle," News & Observer, May 2, 2010).  See also Sentencing and New Voices.