Gov. Mike Easley, a former prosecutor whose ability to fairly hear clemency petitions was challenged by a death row inmate, on Tuesday commuted the man's death sentence to life in prison.
Robert Bacon Jr. was to have been executed by injection at 2 a.m. Friday for the 1987 stabbing death of his lover's husband in Onslow County.
His execution had originally been scheduled for May but was delayed when his lawyers challenged Easley's power to consider a clemency petition, based on the governor's past work as a prosecutor and state attorney general. It was delayed again last month when Easley said the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks hindered Bacon's access to courts.
Bacon's lawyers claimed Easley was biased because he had argued for the death penalty in his previous jobs.
The N.C. Supreme Court, which had allowed Easley to hold a clemency hearing in May, ultimately rejected the appeal.
Easley had not announced a decision on the clemency petition until now.
"I am satisfied that the prosecutors and judges acted fairly and professionally in this case," he said in a statement Tuesday. "However, as governor, my review of this matter in its totality causes me to conclude that the appropriate sentence for the defendant is life without parole," Easley said.
Prosecutors argued that Bacon's lover, Bonnie Clark, plotted the killing of her husband, Marine Sgt. Glennie Clark, for a share of a $130,000 life insurance policy. Mrs. Clark received a life sentence for the murder.
Democrats Say Bowles To Run for U.S. Senate
Top North Carolina Democrats said Tuesday they expect former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles to join North Carolina's U.S. Senate race, with an announcement as early as Thursday.
State Senate leader Marc Basnight said Bowles had told him that he likely will run for the Senate seat being vacated by Republican Jesse Helms.
"He's obviously a very valuable candidate," Basnight said. "He's helped make North Carolina what it is."
Basnight had considered seeking the Democratic nomination as well. He said Tuesday, "I'm not running."
State Rep. Dan Blue, D-Wake, one of two Democrats who have announced for the race, said he also expects Bowles to seek the Senate seat.
"It will be an interesting and lively primary," Blue said.
One top Democratic Party insider, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, said an announcement could come Thursday.
Bowles would join Blue and Secretary of State Elaine Marshall in the Senate Democratic primary.
On the GOP side, former U.S. labor and transportation secretary Elizabeth Dole, former Charlotte Mayor Richard Vinroot and Salisbury doctor Ada Fisher have announced.
Bowles, who served in the Clinton White House, would bring national recognition to the Democratic primary, and the ability to use his banking ties to raise large sums of money.
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