Friday, January 26, 2007

Yet another state suspends executions

I haven't posted in a bit, as I sorted through something I have written about on my personal blog. Not that there hasn't been news, I have just paid some attention to me. But now- back to the law stuff.

In a bit of news without analysis, these are happy times for death penalty opponents. A North Carolina court handed down a ruling that amounts to a moratorium on executions. The law in NC is that a doctor must attend to the proceedings, but the state medical ethics board ruled that to supervise an execution is inconsistent with medical ethics. No doctors will supervise, therefore no execution.

Finding procedural loopholes are a time-honored practice in the profession to avoid having to make a potentially unpopular decision on the merits. Last month, the Maryland Court of Appeals stayed all executions (171 page PDF file) because the Department of Corrections did not follow the necessary administrative processes in developing their execution protocols. If the Court really wanted to stop the machinery of death, their chosen method is cowardly- however, it had the effect of bringing the death penalty back to floor of the Maryland legislature, and the Governor announced that he would sign a bill to abolish. Given that Maryland has no substantial history of executions, I would venture to guess that it will pass.

My beloved home state of New Jersey- a state that has only sent about 20-odd people to death row, had more than half of the sentences overturned, and hasn't executed anyone since the sixties- is on the verge of abolishing the death penalty. In all, twelve states have suspended executions for one reason or another. Even a Federal judge has bullied prosecutors over what he believes is an unnecessary death case.

The tide is turning in this area. Analysis later.