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.