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Perry 2018
David Perry for NC House
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Death Penalty

Death Penalty

The imposition of the death penalty is a highly controversial issue within our state, our country, and across the world. Honest and highly ethical people have fiercely different opinions on the matter. Even though no criminal convicts have been executed in the state since 2006, capital punishment has been performed by the state of North Carolina since 1910. It is important that current candidates for the General Assembly express their viewpoints on this highly controversial subject.

First, I would like to emphatically state that any person who intentionally murders another human being deserves to die. Life is precious, and short of divine intervention, can not regained once it is lost. The only question is whether it is prudent for our state government to be the instrument of ultimate justice in these instances. I believe that it is not.

One of the reasons the death penalty is not prudent is due to its highly selective implementation. Currently, the death penalty can only be sought in North Caroina if one of the following aggravating factors are present:

  1. The capital felony was committed by a person lawfully incarcerated.
  2. The defendant had been previously convicted of another capital felony.
  3. The defendant had been previously convicted of a felony involving the use or threat of violence to the person.
  4. The capital felony was committed for the purpose of avoiding or preventing a lawful arrest or effecting an escape from custody.
  5. The capital felony was committed while the defendant was engaged, or was an aider or abettor, in the commission of, or an attempt to commit, or flight after committing or attempting to commit, any homicide, robbery, rape or a sex offense, arson, burglary, kidnapping, or aircraft piracy or the unlawful throwing, placing, or discharging of a destructive device or bomb.
  6. The capital felony was committed for pecuniary gain.
  7. The capital felony was committed to disrupt or hinder the lawful exercise of any governmental function or the enforcement of laws.
  8. The capital felony was committed against a law-enforcement officer, employee of the Division of Adult Correction of the Department of Public Safety, jailer, fireman, judge or justice, former judge or justice, prosecutor or former prosecutor, juror or former juror, or witness or former witness against the defendant, while engaged in the performance of his official duties or because of the exercise of his official duty.
  9. The capital felony was especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel.
  10. The defendant knowingly created a great risk of death to more than one person by means of a weapon or device which would normally be hazardous to the lives of more than one person.
  11. The murder for which the defendant stands convicted was part of a course of conduct in which the defendant engaged and which included the commission by the defendant of other crimes of violence against another person or persons.

What is obvious from this list of aggravating factors is that some murders are considered worse than others. A police officer's life is worth more than yours. A wife who had her life ended because her husband wanted to collect the insurance money is worth more than that of a wife who was killed out of jealousy or simply because her husband didn't like her. All life is equally precious. If murderers deserve the death penalty, then they all do!

Furthermore, even given these aggravating factors, the process continues to be selectively implemented. First of all, the charging District Attorney has to agree to bring the death penalty charges. A District Attorney in one county might be morally opposed to capital punishment and never charge it, while a District Attorney in another county might bring the death penalty charge all the time. Why should the family of a murder victim in one county receive less justice than a family in another county? Furthermore, the jury has to unanimously decide to impose the death penalty. If even one juror decides against the death penalty, a life term of imprisonment is imposed. Why should one grieving family receive less justice than another simply based on the whims of one juror?

Now it could be argued that the problem of selective implementation of the death penalty could easily be solved by simply making the death penalty apply in every case of first-degree murder. This is true. However, I still believe that this would not be a prudent course of action.

Juries consist of fallible human beings. Even if they all hold true to the standard of "beyond a reasonable doubt" (which they often don't), and even if they are extremely careful when reviewing all of the evidence, sometimes juries get it wrong. Sometimes murderers are set free and sometimes innocent people are convicted. In 2014 the National Academy of Science noted that 144 wrongfully convicted prisoners had been released from death row. That's about 1.6%. However, countless numbers of others, who had been wrongfully convicted of murder, have also been released from life sentences in prison. The academy estimated that the wrongful conviction rate for first-degree murder is about 4.1%. This means that about 1 out of every 25 people convicted of murder are actually innocent. This is WAY too high. Benjamin Franklin noted, "That it is better 100 guilty Persons should escape than that one innocent Person should suffer, is a Maxim that has been long and generally approved." If a person found guilty of murder is simply sent to prison then there will be more time available for scientific methods to improve, and evidence of innocence to come to light. If the prisoner is sent to their death, no further opportunity to prove their innocence will be available after their time on death row is over.

Finally, some states have started to impose sentences of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. While this is perfectly just for the truly guilty, it can be a fate worse than death for the wrongfully convicted prisoner. Sometimes, even with advances in science, no proof of innocence will ever be found. Personally, I would rather die as an innocent man rather than spend the rest of my life in a prison cell for a crime I didn't commit. I am not saying that parole must always be granted. Certainly there are some prisoners who are still VERY dangerous and a threat to others, and who never should see the light of day. However, I believe that it is prudent to leave all options open, and let a parole board decide whether a prisoner is eventually safe to return to society.

Paid for by the Committee to Elect David A. Perry

© 2018 - Committee to Elect David A. Perry
235 Silver Sloop Way, Carolina Beach, NC 28428

Direct Legal Inquiries to: Christopher M. Nance, Treasurer
512 Martin Street, Carthage, NC 28327