Friday, November 30, 2001 CONTACT: Kenneth Rose, Esq., (919) 956- 9545;
Gerda Stein, (919) 789-0401,
Center for Death Penalty Litigation (NC);
Richard Dieter - (202) 293-6970,
Death Penalty Information Center


Rouse Case, Near End of the Line, to be Heard on Monday

Washington, DC - North Carolina has executed more people this year than in any year since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. Recent cases resulting in executions were marred by alcoholic attorneys, lawyers with no experience in capital cases, and lawyers who missed critical deadlines for appeals. Another inmate, Kenneth Rouse, has all but exhausted his appeals, despite compelling issues.

Although the state has adopted new standards for who can represent defendants facing the death penalty, these improvements do nothing for the 239 people currently on North Carolina’s death row, one of the largest in the country.

Last night, John Rose became the fifth person executed in North Carolina this year, despite the fact that neither of his trial attorneys had any experience defending capital cases. Earlier, Ronald Frye was executed even though he had been represented by a trial attorney who was deep in the throes of severe alcohol abuse.

On Monday, December 3, Kenneth Rouse’s case will be argued before the Fourth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond. His prospects are not good: his appellate attorneys missed their filing date (by one day) and hence their issues were rejected by the initial federal court. Now his fate lies with the Fourth Circuit which has not granted relief in a death penalty case in almost a decade.

Yet Rouse’s case offers an egregious example of the injustice which has permeated many of North Carolina’s capital cases. Rouse is an African-American who faced trial before an all-white jury for the murder of a white woman. The prosecutor dismissed all of the people of color who were qualified for jury service. One of the jurors chosen to serve has admitted that he lied in order to be picked for the jury. He concealed the fact that his mother had been assaulted and murdered and that the killer had been executed. After the trial, he admitted his racial bias against blacks, to whom he often referred as “niggers.”

Earlier in 2001, researchers at the University of North Carolina released a study of race and the death penalty. The study revealed that the odds of being sentenced to death increased by three and half times if you murdered a white victim, as Rouse had done, as compared to the race of all other victims.

Executions have declined around the country in 2001, but not in North Carolina. Sixty-two people have been executed nationwide this year, compared with 85 in 2000 and 98 in 1999.

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