Rejecting a plea agreement means facing the death penalty for the unlucky defendants in North Carolina who live in the handful of counties that pursue the death penalty. As of 2012, only 14 of the 100 counties in North Carolina have sought the death penalty at trial. Norman Kennard Carter, Jr., awaiting trial in Forsyth County, is one of the unlucky defendants. He is charged with first degree murder in the shooting death of Alphonso Singletary in September of 2016. Carter agreed to enter a guilty plea to life without the possibility of parole, but changed his mind during the plea hearing.
Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill’s office immediately requested to seek the death penalty in the case. The district attorney’s office has full discretion in deciding to pursue the death penalty. The presiding judge granted the request. Carter’s attorney asked the district attorney’s office to keep the option of accepting the plea agreement open until December 2017. The District Attorney’s office agreed to keep the plea on the table until December, but it has full discretion to revoke this agreement at any time.
In the last 10 years, Forsyth County is responsible for placing one out of every five people on death row in North Carolina. The question citizens should ask themselves is this:
- If the DA was willing to accept a life without the possibility of parole sentence, why would he not then simply proceed to trial without seeking the death penalty?
- If convicted, Carter will still face the life without the possibility of parole the DA felt was an appropriate punishment when it offered the plea agreement. Is it possible that the DA is punishing this defendant for not accepting a plea agreement by making him face the death penalty?
- Is this they way YOU want your district attorney to make life or death decisions about your fellow citizens?