NC Lethal Injection Litigation Continues

News Update 05.14.08

North Carolina

The Council of State fired its latest volley this week in the ongoing litigation over North Carolina’s lethal injection protocol. The arguments can be summarized as follows: 1) the inmates cannot appeal the COS’s decision to approve the lethal injection protocol because they are not “persons aggrieved” by the decision; (2) it was not improper for the Attorney General (as the legal representative of one of the parties before the Council) to participate in a meeting of the Council from which the inmates’ attorneys were banned; and (3) it was not improper for individual members of the Council to seek legal advice about matters before the Council in nonpublic forums. The Council’s brief is here.

James Stitt has been found guilty of one count of first-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder. Jurors must now decide whether to sentence him to death or life without the possibility of parole. Arguing for life, Stitt’s attorneys have presented evidence that he has struggled since childhood and was operating in a fantasy world at the time of the killings.


Two months before his scheduled execution date, the Supreme Court has decided to hear the case of Virginia’s Edward Nathaniel Bell. The Court only agreed to hear the narrow issue of whether AEDPA requires a federal court to defer to a state court ruling, even where the state court did not consider the evidence in question. Bell’s case presents other interesting questions, like whether counsel can be considered constitutionally effective when they present no evidence to the jury in the sentencing phase of a defendant’s trial. More here and here.

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