February 28, 2011
Jury selection is complete for the trial of Tony Summers in Guilford County. Opening statements are expected this morning.
There is no word on the Ebony Watson trial in Lee County.
Two other capital trials are scheduled to start today, De’Ante Harris in Robeson County and Melba Slayton in Randolph County. The Slayton case is of particular note because the defendant is in her mid-70s. One has to wonder why the State would spend millions of dollars to seek the death penalty against someone who will surely not live to see execution.
February 22, 2011
In Guilford County, prosecutors and defense attorneys have seated twelve jurors and one alternate for the capital trial of Tony Savalis Summers. Opening arguments will begin once the final two alternate jurors have been seated. Summers is accused of a 2006 rape-murder in Greensboro.
In Lee County, the court heard pretrial motions yesterday in the case of Ebony Watson. Watson is accused of killing her boyfriend’s child in 2008. (The local paper does not have free internet access.)
February 18, 2011
In 2008, Glen Edward Chapman was exonerated and released from death row after spending 15 years behind bars for two murders he did not commit. He has yet to be compensated by the State of North Carolina.
On March 31st, the Grey Eagle in Asheville is hosting the third annual Freedom Ball in Mr. Chapman’s honor. Performers will include singer-songwriter David LaMotte, the surf/psychobilly band The Krektones, and reggae/dub act Kinjah.
You can buy tickets online here. Even if you can’t attend, please consider purchasing a few tickets as a donation.
February 18, 2011
People far and wide are familiar with the Triangle – the area of North Carolina between Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill. As of today, two out of three Triangle counties have stepped back from the death penalty. Orange County (Chapel Hill) has not sent anyone to death row in the modern era. On the other hand, Wake County (Raleigh) currently has ten people on death row. This morning, Isaac Stroud, the sole death row inmate from Durham, had his sentence converted to life in prison.
A judge found Isaac Stroud mentally incompetent to assist his attorneys in his defense, and therefore ineligible for execution. Stroud, who was sentenced to death in 1995 for the slaying of his girlfriend, is the second North Carolina inmate to be declared incompetent to be executed (see Guy LeGrande.)
It has been noted that today’s re-sentencing came only after Stroud filed a motion under the Racial Justice Act. Perhaps this is an unintended benefit of the RJA – that prosecutors will take a fresh look at old cases and decide to resolve them in a manner more fair and less expensive than capital punishment. The victim’s family did not protest the decision to remove Isaac Stroud from death row. For them, justice meant that he never be released from prison.
February 14, 2011
In a hearing last week in Forsyth County Superior Court, the Racial Justice Act survived an attempt by prosecutors to have the law struck down on constitutional grounds. Says the Winston-Salem Journal:
Judge William Z. Wood of Forsyth Superior Court rejected the arguments of Forsyth County prosecutors that the Racial Justice Act, signed into law in August 2009, was too broad and vague and was subject to multiple interpretations. He was the first judge in North Carolina to hear cases involving the Racial Justice Act, and the hearings were being closely watched by prosecutors from across the state as well as supporters of the law.
The law allows death-row inmates and defendants facing the death penalty to use statistics and other evidence to prove that racial bias played a “significant factor” in their sentence or in prosecutors’ decision to pursue the death penalty. The only remedy under the law is to reduce an inmate’s sentence to life in prison.
Wood considered two Forsyth County cases involving men on death row — those of Carl Stephen Moseley and Errol Duke Moses.
The RJA has been a hot topic national media as well, earning mentions in both The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.
As this editorial in the Fayetteville Observer points out, the existence of the RJA is only controversial to the extent that it provides a convenient distraction from North Carolina’s real problems. Statistical studies have proven that race matters – in the determination of which cases will proceed to a capital trial, in the selection of jurors to hear those cases, and in the ultimate decision to impose the death penalty. Given that evidence, our next move should not be to sweep it all under the rug by repealing the RJA in the legislature or striking it down in the courts. It’s time to take an honest look at ourselves and our system. Let the sun shine in, North Carolina.
February 1, 2011
9 – Roy Willard Blankenship (GA)
9 – Martin Link (MO)
15 – Michael Wayne Hall (TX)
17 – Frank Spisak (OH)
22 – Timothy Adams (TX)