Durham and Moore DAs Seek Death

News Update 01.09.08

North Carolina

Testimony continues in the trial of Lisa Greene.

In Durham, there is debate over whether prosecutors will be able to seek the death penalty against Jasmond Jevon “Catfish” Rogers for his role in a June drive-by shooting. The assistant district attorney failed to give the defense advance notice of his decision to seek death, as required by law. Giving notice only requires filing simple paperwork, but is important because without it the defense cannot gain access to special funds and resources necessary to a capital trial. Moving forward with a capital case in which the DA has not given proper notice means that either the defense will be ambushed (and have a great issue for appeal) or that the trial will be needlessly delayed while the defense conducts the investigation it would have done earlier had the DA complied with the law. Speedy justice requires timely notice.

Meanwhile in Moore County, prosecutors have been given the green light to seek death against Sherrod Nicholas Harrison. Harrison is one of five men accused of a September home invasion-homicide. The case is being closely watched by online hate communities because the victim was white and all of the defendants are black.

NC Policy Watch weighs in on what the Baze litigation means for North Carolina: “First, the debate places the spotlight on the inherent flaws in any capital punishment system. While a majority of the U.S. Supreme Court may not find it violative of the Eighth Amendment, there is no longer any hiding the fact that killing people is, even under the most ‘humane’ circumstances, a grisly business…Second and more broadly, the cases serve to point out the inherent contradictions of state sanctioned killing in the 21st Century. As more and more Americans appear to be coming to understand…capital punishment is (like slavery, torture, racism and many other once widely celebrated and now dead or dying institutions) a practice that fares worse and worse over time as more of the world comes to truly grasp what’s involved.”


Reactions to Baze are everywhere. Just a few: NY Times, Volokh Conspiracy, Washington Post, miscellaneous links from How Appealing here and here, plus coverage from PBS and NPR. And of course StandDown has herds of links here and here and here.

A New England Journal of Medicine editorial has thoughts on the proper role of doctors in executions – none. “Physicians and other health care providers should not be involved in capital punishment, even in an advisory capacity. A profession dedicated to healing the sick has no place in the process of execution…We believe that, like the anesthesiologists in the Morales case, all responsible members of the medical profession, when asked to assist in a state-ordered execution, will remember the Hippocratic Oath and refuse to participate. The future of capital punishment in the United States will be up to the justices, but the involvement of physicians in executions will be up to the medical profession.” (c/o StandDown)

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