State legislative leaders have called on Attorney General Josh Stein to address a legislative commission to share what action he will take to restart the death penalty in North Carolina. The call for action follows the murder of three correctional officers and another prison employee at the Pasquotank Correctional Institution.
Last week, following the announcement that the Pasquotank County District Attorney will seek the death penalty in the case against the four inmates charged with first degree murder, the leaders of the House and Senate called on Stein, and Gov. Roy Cooper to work to begin carrying out executions in the state after more than 10 years without a single execution.
The state has not executed anyone since 2006, due to a slew of legal challenges that have resulted in a de-facto moratorium on the death penalty.
Other hurdles to carrying out the death penalty include access to the life-taking drugs used in lethal injection, which is the primary form of execution for every state that has the death penalty, to doctors refusing to participate in the process of carrying out the death penalty.
Currently there are 143 inmates on death row in North Carolina.
State Senate leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) and House Speaker Rep. Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) doubled down on the call on Thursday after receiving word from both Stein and Cooper’s camps that they will uphold the laws of the state. They want to know how.
Moore and Berger called on Stein to speak at the next meeting of the Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations to share what his office will do to resume executions.
The pair also called on Cooper to describe how his Department of Public Safety will act decisively to end the moratorium on executions, in the hopes that the threat of being put to death will become a deterrent to those already incarcerated from carrying out these kinds of attacks in the future.
In a letter sent to Cooper and Stein, and made available to the public, Moore and Berger said, “As you know, last week we called on you to take action to restart the death penalty in North Carolina after Pasquotank County District Attorney Andrew Womble announced he is pursuing capital punishment against four inmates charged with the first-degree murder of three state correctional officers and a prison rehabilitative work program manager. In light of the prosecutor’s decision, we again urge you to take swift action to make certain, should a jury sentence these men to death, that those sentences can be carried out.
We read with interest Governor Cooper’s spokeswoman’s response that, ‘Capital punishment remains the law of the state, and Governor Cooper has a long history of upholding it,’ and Attorney General Stein’s spokeswoman’s response that he plans to ‘uphold the law in North Carolina.’
Respectfully, actions – or rather inactions – speak louder than words.”
The next meeting of the commission has not been announced.
The four inmates have been charged with first-degree murder for the killings that took pace during an attempted escape from Pasquotank Correctional Institute in October.
The four have also been charged with, five counts of assault with a deadly weapon, one felony count of inciting a riot, one count of burning a building, one count of attempted escape from prison, and one misdemeanor count of assault with a deadly weapon.
The inmates are accused of using scissors and hammers to carry out the murders. Eight other prison employees were injured.
The inmates are accused of setting a fire on the afternoon of October 12. and inciting a riot in the sewing shop of the prison where about 30 inmates work.
Several inmates tried to escape during the fire and riot.
One of the inmates is in prison for murder, two others are incarcerated for attempted murder.
One of the two is in prison for shooting a state trooper in the face during a traffic stop and the other for stabbing the wife of another soldier 15 times after breaking into the soldier’s home in 2011.
The fourth prisoner charged in connection with the failed escape attempt is in prison for first-degree burglary and was set to be released next year.