STUDIES: New Report Cites Multiple Problems with North Carolina's Death Penalty

According to a comprehensive review of studies on the death penalty by Matthew Robinson, Professor of Government and Justice Studies at Appalachian State University, the death penalty in North Carolina is expensive, racially biased and ineffective. Prof. Robinson analyzed data from more than 20 death penalty studies and found them to be remarkably consistent in their conclusions. He said, “In the past six years, three states have abolished the death penalty: Illinois, New Mexico and New Jersey. They did it for the same reason. They found racial bias, they found it to be costly, they found it to be ineffective and a threat to innocent people.” According to Robinson’s review, use of the death penalty in North Carolina has been in decline since 2000. The state has not had an execution since 2006. He found no evidence that the death penalty deters crime, noting that the state’s murder rate has declined since executions stopped in 2006. He also found evidence of racial bias in the state’s death penalty system. Nearly 80% of death sentences imposed in North Carolina have been in cases where the victim was white, far higher than the percentage of whites who are generally victims of murder.

Recently, a bill was filed in the state legislature that would essentially repeal the Racial Justice Act in North Carolina. This Act allows a defendant facing the death penalty to use statistical evidence—regarding either the race of the defendant or the race of the victim—to prove that racial bias was a significant factor in his sentence.

(M. Hewlett, “Death penalty ineffective, too expensive, new study says,” Winston-Salem Journal, April 19, 2011). Read more Studies on the death penalty. See also Race.