The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Tuesday January 18th

Groups Protest Planned Execution

A dummy outfitted in a red jumpsuit will lie lifeless on a gurney on Franklin Street today in protest of the state's scheduled execution of Michael Earl Sexton on Thursday.

The Charles M. Jones Peace and Justice Committee, the UNC Campaign to End the Death Penalty and People of Faith Against the Death Penalty will convene at the Franklin Street post office to hold a mock execution.

The groups will display banners asking passers-by if they could personally put someone to death. Organizers will tally responses from people who answer either "yes" or "no" on a ballot.

Margaret Misch, a member of the justice committee, said she hopes the voting gimmick, a timely parallel of the general elections, will attract people to participate and make them aware of the issue.

"The idea is to call on people's consciences," she said. "The state of North Carolina is killing in people's names."

Organizers of the mock execution will provide petitions supporting a moratorium on further executions. It also aims to publicize Sexton's execution, scheduled for 2 a.m. Thursday, which the groups said has not received proper attention.

"First of all, there's an execution scheduled 26 hours after the elections," said John Johnson, head of the UNC Campaign. "And I'm afraid they have overshadowed the execution."

Sexton was convicted of the August 1990 rape and murder of Kimberly Crews, a social worker at Wake Medical Center.

Misch said the groups considered putting a black person in the jumpsuit instead of a dummy to emphasize the racial disparity of those on death row. She cited Sexton, who is black, as one example.

"It would be a more accurate depiction," said Stephen Dear of the People of Faith organization. He said more than half of death row inmates are black, while blacks comprise only 22 percent of the state's population.

Johnson said Attorney General Mike Easley, who is the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, has the power to schedule executions in the state and conveniently delayed this one because it would hurt his campaign.

"I think it's pretty blatant," he said. "There haven't been any (executions) all year."

Johnson said roughly 62 percent of N.C. residents support a moratorium on the death penalty, according to a recent poll by the Charlotte Observer.

The Orange County Board of Commissioners, the Carrboro Board of Aldermen and the Chapel Hill Town Council have all gone on record to support a moratorium to stay all executions until the state's administration of the death penalty can be studied.

These factors have prompted the groups to give a visual example of an execution, which often occurs in the early morning before dawn.

"The point we're trying to make is that it's not happening in a far-off place," Johnson said. "It's happening in North Carolina, and taxpayers are paying for this."

The City Editor can be reached

at citydesk@unc.edu.


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