Five Jurors Seated in Britt Trial

June 16, 2009

After two weeks of questioning, only five jurors have been seated for the second death penalty trial of Myron Britt.  Britt is accused of shooting his wife in 2003 to collect on her life insurance policy.  He has already been tried once, but the jury deadlocked on the question of guilt or innocence.  Prosecutors elected to try him again and seek the death penalty a second time.  The court may have to call on jurors from outside of Robeson County if they are unable to seat a full panel of local jurors.  Once the jury has been seated, the trial is expected to take another three weeks.

Pilgrimage, Day Two

June 16, 2009

Today the Sojourners for Abolition and Reconciliation are marching from Middlesex to Wilson, just under 20 miles.  Click here to read Scott Bass’s essay about why he is taking this pilgrimage to oppose the death penalty.  Past articles on the march are here and here.

(With non-endorsement-implying musical accompaniment by R.E.M.)

Pilgrimage, Day One

June 15, 2009

The Sojourners of Abolition and Reconciliation have completed day one of their march across North Carolina.  You can read a summary of the day’s events here.  There is also an interesting reaction piece here to this divisive WRAL article about the march.

“We walk to remember murder victims, people on death row, the executed, the exonerated and the families of all these persons and we walk to call for an end to the death penalty,” said Pilgrimage organizer Scott Bass. The Pilgrimage remembers those wrongfully convicted of murder as well as people who commit violent acts, “Our faith calls on us to remember that we are all children of God, even those among us who have caused the greatest harm,” Bass said. “It’s about remembering that there is no right way to do the wrong thing, and executing human beings is wrong, an unnecessary evil that does not make us safer and cannot deliver on its false promise of helping murder victim families heal.”

Over the next two weeks, walkers will travel from Raleigh to the coast and back, stopping in towns including Zebulon, Wilson, Rocky Mount, Tarboro, Bethel, Robersonville, Williamston, Greenville, Winterville, Ayden, Kinston, New Bern, Emerald Isle, Jacksonville, Swansboro, Goldsboro, Smithfield, Selma, Clayton, and Garner.

Today the pilgrims travel from Knightdale to Middlesex.  Learn how you can help here.

District Attorneys Disagree on Racial Justice Act

June 11, 2009

…is the title of this article in The Independent Weekly.

Durham District Attorney Tracey Cline told the paper that her personal position on the Racial Justice Act is “totally different” from that of the N.C. Conference of District Attorneys, which strongly opposes the bill.  On the other hand, Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby asserted, “I don’t think that jurors are racist, and I don’t think prosecutors are racist.”  Willoughby further stated that thinking people are sentenced to death disproportionately based on race is like thinking they are sentenced to death disproportionately based on astrological sign.

Incidentally, there are eleven people on death row from Willoughby’s home county.  Two are white and nine are people of color.  For some reason, their astrological signs are not listed on the DOC website.

Reasons Not to Resume Executions

June 11, 2009

NC Policy Watch’s Chris Fitzsimon has named his reasons in this op-ed in The Durham News.  It begins:

Last month’s ruling by the North Carolina Supreme Court that the state medical board can’t discipline doctors who play a role in executions has reignited the debate about capital punishment and prompted calls from death penalty supporters for executions to resume at Central Prison.Executions have been on hold for more than two years while the courts considered the medical board’s position that a doctor who monitors an inmate’s vital signs during the execution is violating medical ethics and can be disciplined.

The courts are also considering a challenge of a decision by the Council of State that approved the lethal injection protocol used to put inmates to death. That case is now before Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens.

The legal issues are complicated enough, though it baffles the mind how doctors who are sworn to do no harm can participate in any way in killing a person. But even when the courts have decided what the medical board can or can’t do and whether or not the Council of State acted improperly, fundamental problems with the capital punishment system remain in North Carolina.

Life Sentence for Manning

June 11, 2009

John Allan Manning, who pleaded guilty to the 2007 rape and murder of a 7-year-old girl in Lenoir County, has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.  Had he gone to trial, Manning could have faced the death penalty.

Jury Selection Continues in Britt Trial

June 10, 2009

In Robeson County, jury selection is continuing in the second trial of Myron Britt.  Britt is accused of killing his wife in 2003.  At last report, no jurors had been seated after several days of questioning.

Britt’s first trial ended with the jury deadlocked on the question of guilt or innocence and prosecutors elected to try him again.  Britt could face the death penalty if convicted.

Hennis Hearing Today

June 10, 2009

Attorneys for Master Sgt. Timothy Hennis were in a military courtroom at Fort Bragg this morning.  Hennis is facing the death penalty for the 1985 murder of a woman and her two children. The judge ruled that because some of the witnesses have died or otherwise become unavailable to testify, their prior statements against Hennis will be read into the record at his trial.  The judge has yet to rule on other motions argued in the case.

For those unfamiliar with the case, Hennis was tried and sentenced to death for the murders in civilian court in 1986.  Hennis was retried and acquitted of the murders in 1989.  He then re-entered the military, completed his career, and retired on the West Coast.  Hennis was recalled to active duty in 2006 to be tried a third time for the same murders.  Double jeopardy from civilian courts does not apply in military tribunals.

Racial Justice Act Passes House Committee

June 10, 2009

The NC House Ways and Means Committee has passed the Racial Justice Act by a vote of 7-5.  The bill will now move to House Judiciary Committee I.  If the RJA passes out of that committee, it will go to the House floor for a full vote.  The bill would enable defendants and death row inmates to challenge the decision to seek or impose the death penalty in their case if that decision was racially motivated.

The House version of the bill does not include the amendments tacked on by bill opponents in the Senate.

DP Event in Durham

June 10, 2009

On June 13th, Therese Bartholomew will be at the Regulator Bookshop in Durham to sign and discuss her new book, Coffee Shop God.  The book is a memoir chronicling Bartholomew’s struggle to cope with the murder of her brother, to forgive his killer, and to go on with her life.

The event is sponsored by Murder Victims Families for Reconcilliation.


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