Four Cumberland County Death Row Inmates Request New Racial Justice Act Hearings

Four Inmates in Cumberland County have asked that the state Supreme Court reconsider the illegal effect of racism in their trials. They had previously used the North Carolina Racial Justice act to do so, but it was repealed in 2013. Some of the arguments in their two petitions include:
  • The Superior Court should have held a hearing to consider whether there was racial bias in one of the inmate’s trials in 2002.
  • The Superior Court unconstitutionally retroactively applied the Racial Justice Act repeal to his one inmate’s case.
  • The courts have not yet decided on the constitutionality of the repeal of the Racial Justice Act
  • The repeal was unconstitutionally intended to punish a specific inmate.

Article Examines Myth That Death Penalty Prosecutes “Worst of the Worst”

In an article written by Gretchen Engle, Executive Director of the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, Engle deconstructs the myth that the death penalty punishes the “worst of the worst” offenders. The article explains that instead, death sentences are imposed in the following ways:
  • As part of an era in which more than three-quarters of the 147 people on death row were sentenced. This occurred more than 15 years ago, during which prosecutors were required to seek the death penalty in every first-degree murder case with an aggravating factor. Prosecutors themselves were among those who recommended this law be changed, and it was in 2001.
  • In order to pressure defendants to accept pleas to life sentences

Find the full article at

Florida Death Row Inmate Exonerated

A man in Florida who was facing two death sentences has been exonerated. Ralph Daniel Wright Jr., a former sergeant, had been previously convicted of murdering his lover and their 15-month-old child in 2007. The Florida Supreme Court held that the evidence was insufficient to sustain the convictions and thus reversed the convictions and vacated his sentences. This is one of many examples of individuals sentenced to death have been found to be innocent.

Death Penalty Champion, Darryl Hunt, Honored with Scholarship by Z. Smith Reynolds

“Darryl Hunt’s spirit spoke innocence,” said Dr. John Mendez of Emmanuel Baptist Church. This was a beautiful and succinct description of Mr. Hunt, who dedicated his life to eradicating the death penalty.  He spent 19 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.  Once exonerated, he dedicated the remainder of his life to giving a voice to inmates, whom are some of the most marginalized among us.

A small group of his colleagues, friends, and loved ones gathered at Emmanuel Baptist Church on March 13, 2017.  At that gathering,  Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation announced plans to create a $100,00 endowed scholarship fund that will be used to help previously incarcerated Forsyth County residents pursue higher education.  The first scholarship will be awarded in 2018.

Mr. Hunt worked closely with the Carolina Justice Policy Center, as was acknowledged during the endowment announcement.  Together, we fought to promote real, sustainable awareness and change in the criminal justice system and to eliminate the death penalty.  We were forever changed as an organization by standing beside Darryl in his endeavors.  This endowment is a wonderful extension of Darryl’s work and legacy.

You can read details on the endowment.

Florida Prosecutor Announces She Will No Longer Seek Death Sentences

Prosecutors have the power to essentially stop the use of the death penalty.  How? By pledging not to charge any defendants capitally.  It really is that simple.  Prosecutors have total control over whether a case is tried as a death penalty case or a case with the maximum punishment of life without the possibility of parole. One prosecutor in Florida is doing just this to take a stand against the use of the death penalty in America.

District Attorney Aramis Ayala, the newly elected and first Black Female state attorney for Orange and Osceola Counties in Florida, has pledged not to pursue the death penalty in any case, according to Slate.  In the same article, Ayala was quoted as saying, “While I have discretion to pursue the death penalty, I have determined that doing so is not in the best interest of the community or the best interest of justice,”

Carolina Justice Policy Center commends the stand against the death penalty taken by District Attorney Aramis Ayala.  In North Carolina, where no one has been executed in over 10 years, we need district attorneys to join with the shifting consciousness of America and reject the death penalty as a form of punishment.

Read more on District Attorney Aramis Ayala’s courageous stand against the death penalty.

Wake County Jury Again Decides Against Increasing the NC Death Row Population

March has been a good month for advocates against the death penalty in North Carolina. In the seventh straight trial, a Wake County jury has considered all the evidence and returned a sentence of life without the possibility of parole.  By rejecting the death penalty, juries in Wake County are reflecting the trends across the nation against the death penalty.  A Wake County jury has not returned a death sentence since 2007.

Nathan Holden, convicted of the murders of his in-laws and beating of his ex-wife, was facing the death penalty.  The News and Observer reported that a jury of 9 men and 3 women considered over 30 mitigating factors when determining if Holder should be put to death. Ultimately, they rejected death.

In 2016, Wake District Attorney Lorrin Freeman expressed that it may be time to rethink pursuing the death penalty in future cases.  Despite that, death penalty cases are still tried in Wake County.  Hopefully, this seventh rejection of the death penalty will encourage DA Freeman to follow the lead of her citizens and stop pursing the death penalty all together.

The trend away from the death penalty is not confined to Wake County.  According to the News and Observer, there were only 5 death penalty trials in all of North Carolina last year.  Four of those five trials resulted in life without parole sentences.

Read more about the Holden case »