NC's Death Row a legacy of past mistakes

And every single one of these cases needs a thorough review:

With 142 inmates waiting to die, North Carolina has the sixth largest death row in the country. But a report released Tuesday says most of the prisoners would not be awaiting execution if their cases were investigated and tried today.

In “Unequal Justice: How obsolete laws and unfair trial created North Carolina’s outsized Death Row,” the Center for Death Row Litigation in Durham says the state’s death row is stuck in time while the views of capital punishment continue to evolve. “They are prisoners of a state that has moved on, but refuses to reckon with its past,” the report says. “Today, the death penalty is seen as a tool to be used sparingly. Instead of a bludgeon to be wielded in virtually every first-degree murder case.”

With all the political issues confronting us these days, people might be prone to back-burner this one based on two flawed assumptions: 1) They are in no danger of being executed due to the de facto moratorium, or 2) They would still be incarcerated somewhere else anyway. As to that first thing, the term "de facto" should be enough to demonstrate that fallacy. New technology and/or a shift in opinion could get the execution machine rolling again. As far as the second assumption is concerned, these factors definitely come into play:

92 percent of the death row prisoners were tried and convicted before a 2008 reform package aimed at limiting false confessions and mistaken eyewitness identifications.

82 percent, 118 prisoners in all, were sent to death row before North Carolina passed a law giving the defense the right to view all the prosecution’s evidence. Up to then, district attorneys routinely withheld vital information until it was presented at trial, giving the accused little time to prepare a defense, the report says.

73 percent of the death row population, 103 inmates in all, were sent there before the passing of laws barring the execution of people with intellectual disabilities.

Make no mistake, that last statistic played heavily in many of the first statistic's "guilty" verdicts. People with intellectual disabilities (very) often reach a level of fear and despair after even a short period of time in an uncomfortable situation, and after hours of badgering will say anything to make it stop. Prosecutors know/knew this, and took advantage of it.

As far as the middle thing (discovery of evidence), that's really a no-brainer. If you didn't give the defense time to prepare their case properly, the conviction is tainted, plain and simple. That's not something you "grandfather" in and allow to remain, that's something that demands a retrial.

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