NC Death Penalty Year in Review 2008

December 18, 2008

It has been an exceptional year for life in North Carolina.  No one was executed, and only one new person was added to death row (the lowest number since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1977).  This year, as many capital defendants were acquitted as were sentenced to death.  More death row inmates were exonerated than executed.  North Carolina should be proud.

Nationally, executions began again following the Supreme Court’s decision in Baze v. Rees, but lethal injection remains stalled in North Carolina due to litigation by inmates subject to the procedure as well as the doctors forced to participate in it.

Capital Trial Statistics

Life without parole – 9 (Kenneth Hartley, Charles Dickerson, Eric Oakes, Jakiem Wilson, James Stitt, Robert Windsor, Lisa Greene, Neil Sargeant, James Blue)

Sentences less than life -3 (Pliney Purser, Jonte McLaurin, John Chavis Ross)

Death -1 (James Ray Little)

Military capital trial acquittals – 1 (Alberto Martinez)

Post-Conviction Statistics

Executions – 0

Exonerations – 2 (Levon “Bo” Jones, Glen Edward Chapman)

Death row inmates getting new trials – 2 (John Conaway, William Moore)

Death row inmates getting new sentencing hearings – 1 (William Gray)

Otherwise removed from death row – 2 (Clinton Smith, Carlos Cannady)

Incompetent for execution – 1 (Guy LeGrande)

Deaths from natural causes – 3 (Gary Greene, Leroy McNeill, George Page)

If you would like to be part of making 2009 another Year of Life, please consider making a donation to NC-based groups like the Fair Trial Initiative.

Jakiem Wilson Sentenced to Life

July 14, 2008

News Update 07.14.08

North Carolina

After deliberating for over a dozen hours about whether to convict him of first-degree murder, it took a Wake County jury less than an hour to decide that life without parole is the most appropriate punishment for Jakiem Wilson. The jury voted unanimously for life after finding none of the aggravating factors required by law to elevate the possible punishment to death.

This week marks the General Assembly’s last chance to pass the Racial Justice Act this session. The bill would allow capital defendants to challenge the prosecutor’s decision to seek death in their case if that decision was based on racial bias. Republicans are attempting to amend the bill to include a provision that would bar the N.C. Medical Board from disciplining doctors who participate in executions.


The NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund as released Death Row U.S.A. 2008, their annual accounting of changes in death penalty law and death row populations. According to the report, the total number of inmates on death row in the United States is 3,309, down from 3,350 the previous year. As the data was compiled several months ago, the report lists several inmates who are no longer on North Carolina’s death row due to exoneration, re-sentencing, or death from natural causes. These include Carlos Canady, Glen Chapman, Levon Jones, and Gary Greene.

In victims’ rights news, a California judge threatened to throw a widow in jail if she told the jury she did not support the death penalty. Carlton Akee Turner was executed in Texas for the murders of his parents, despite pleas from many family members asking that he be spared.

In Oklahoma, the Pardon and Parole Board voted to grant clemency to Kevin Young, who is scheduled to die later this month. The Board’s decision is only advisory; the final say lies with Governor Brad Henry. Learn more about the case and how to take action here.

Defense Begins Case in Wilson Trial

July 7, 2008

News Update 07.07.08

North Carolina

The defense will begin its presentation today in the case of Jakiem Wilson. Wilson is accused of killing his wife in 2007 and could face the death penalty if convicted.

The Rule 24 hearing for Demario Atwater, who stands accused of killing UNC student body president Eve Carson, has been postponed. “Rule 24 hearing” refers to the proceeding at which the prosecutor formally announces whether s/he will seek death in a murder case. Atwater’s co-defendant, Lawrence Lovette, is ineligible for the death penalty because of his age.


In Tennessee, Paul House is off death row after serving over 22 years for a rape/murder he may not have committed. Still, House is not free. Although he has multiple sclerosis and cannot walk, House cannot leave his mother’s home, must wear a monitoring bracelet, and must register as a sex offender while he awaits retrial. Prosecutors are no longer seeking the death penalty against him.

CDW reports that Texas’ Lester Bower has received a stay of execution while a judge considers whether the state should bother testing the DNA evidence from his case before they kill him. On a related note, the 19th person exonerated by DNA in Dallas County was freed from prison this week after serving 15 years for a robbery/kidnapping he did not commit.

Testimony Begins in Jakiem Wilson Trial

July 1, 2008

News Update 07.01.08

North Carolina

The State has started to present evidence in the trial of Jakiem Wilson, who could face the death penalty if found guilty of first-degree murder. Wilson admits to killing his wife, but asserts that he did so in a fit of rage. Such a crime would constitute second-degree murder. Before opening arguments, the judge suppressed evidence seized from Wilson’s home pursuant to a pathetically insufficient search warrant.


In Texas, prosecutors are opposing DNA testing for Lester Bower. Bower, who maintains his innocence, has an execution date later this month. The State is also refusing to hear evidence from witnesses who say they know that other men committed the quadruple murder for which Bower is on death row.

Florida is set to execute Mark Dean Schwab tonight. It has been 18 months since Florida conducted its last – botched – execution, and many are concerned that the problems with the state’s lethal injection protocol have not been resolved.

The U.S. Military has announced its intention to seek death against Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who confessed to having a role in the fatal 2000 bombing of the USS Cole. The CIA has admitted to waterboarding al-Nashiri in 2002, and destroying tapes of the interrogation three years later. Al-Nashiri has said that he only confessed to stop the torture and denies any involvement in al Qaeda. (more here)

Jakiem Wilson Trial Begins

May 28, 2008

News Update 05.28.08

North Carolina

In Wake County, jury selection has begun in the trial of Jakiem Wilson, who has admitted to killing his wife in 2007. His attorneys will argue that Wilson should be convicted of second-degree murder or manslaughter. If convicted of first-degree murder, Wilson will be sentenced either to death or to life without the possibility of parole.

Noting that three wrongly convicted black men have been released from North Carolina’s death row in the last six months, many are calling for the Senate to move the Racial Justice Act out of the committee where it’s been sitting since last year. The bill would allow defendants to present evidence in court to show that either the prosecutor’s decision to seek the death penalty or the jury’s decision to impose it was improperly based on race. See also.


CNN has an update on Paul House, who remains on Tennessee’s death row despite multiple courts expressing doubt about his guilt. House, who suffers from multiple sclerosis and is confined to a wheelchair, has been in prison since 1986 for a murder another man has confessed to committing.

Kevin Green was executed last night in Virginia. Learn more about Green’s case here.


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