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Sunday January 29th

Cary Supports Moratorium

Cary Supports Moratorium

Cary is North Carolina's 12th local government to call for a death penalty moratorium, with a 4-3 vote in favor of the resolution, following similar decisions made in Charlotte, Winston-Salem and Carborro.

Cary Mayor Glen Lang said he supported the resolution because he believes the death penalty is applied unfairly. "Capital punishment unevenly targets the poor and African Americans," Lang said. "And until we can find a way to fix that, moratoriums are needed, especially when dealing with issues with such final consequences as capital punishment."

During the current legislative session, the N.C. General Assembly could consider a bill that would place a statewide moratorium on the death penalty to study the fairness with which it is applied.

Although Lang said he did not think a moratorium would pass in the legislature, he said Cary's vote reflected the beliefs of the majority of North Carolinians.

Cary Town Council member Jess Ward, who voted against the moratorium, said, "Despite arguments opponents present regarding the unfairness of the death penalty, they cannot show a death in modern times that was ordered solely because of a criminal's racial or economic background."

Ward said he also opposed the resolution because he believes that local government does not have a role in politics concerning the death penalty. "This resolution will not significantly affect Cary or North Carolina, and that's the problem," Ward said. "We need to spend our time making decisions that will."

Last year a state legislative committee voted to propose a moratorium on the death penalty to the General Assembly, citing a need to examine whether the death penalty is biased toward minorities and the poor.

Sen. Frank Ballance, D-Bertie, co-chairman of the committee, said consistency and fairness among juries were two main issues to study but added that he was not sure what action would be taken by the legislature. "I don't have a solution for that right now, (but) one or two years of legislation could tighten up the death penalty procedures, making it more appropriate and fair," he said.

Co-chairman of the committee Rep. Ronnie Sutton, D-Hoke, said a moratorium would give the General Assembly the necessary time it needs to discuss the problems that have arisen concerning the fairness and technicalities of the death penalty.

The members of the General Assembly will propose several separate bills pertaining to the death penalty this legislative session, Sutton said.

But Sen. Robert Rucho, R-Mecklenburg, said the General Assembly is not expected to pass a moratorium during the long session, which runs from now until June.

Even though Rucho acknowledges that it sometimes takes 10 years or longer for a criminal on death row to receive his punishment, he said methods such as repetitive DNA testing have been introduced as a just way of ensuring guilt or innocence before a sentence is carried out, mitigating the need for a moratorium.

"It is my responsibility as a member of the General Assembly to ensure swift and sure justice."

The State & National Editor can be reached at stntdesk@unc.edu.

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