We’ve learned a lot about the death penalty in the last 40 years. We’ve learned a lot about the criminal legal system and its ultimate, irreversible punishment—the death penalty—over the last several decades.
We’ve learned that the risk of executing an innocent person is real: ten people who have been sentenced to death in North Carolina have later been exonerated;
We’ve learned that the complicated process—from indictment to execution—drains our resources: on average, defending a N.C. death penalty case costs four times as much as a first-degree murder trial in which the defendant faces a maximum of life imprisonment.
We’ve learned that the lengthy process doesn’t deliver swift and certain justice, which in turn hurts the victims’ families: a growing number of families of murder victims in North Carolina say the death penalty only creates more pain, both for them and for the families of defendants. Many say that the millions spent each year on pursuing death sentences could be better spent on programs that reduce violent crime or on victims’ services. Right now, there is often no funding to provide victim advocates, assistance with funeral costs, or counseling.
We’ve learned that capital punishment has failed to create a safer society: in a 2008 survey, police chiefs from across the country ranked the death penalty at the bottom of a list of effective crime-fighting tools. They said more law enforcement resources were the most needed tool for reducing violent crime. When it comes to crime deterrence, they had little use for the death penalty.
We’ve learned that justice is not blind: poor and marginalized defendants too often are represented by attorneys who were inebriated, asleep, inexperienced, overwhelmed, or just incompetent.
And we’ve learned that tinkering won’t fix it.
As conservatives, we’re concerned. We’re concerned that allowing the state the ability to take execute its citizens is not in keeping with a small government; we’re concerned that the exorbitant costs don’t deliver in terms of greater public safety or healing victims’ families; we’re concerned that the state won’t get it right; and we’re concerned that capital punishment contradicts core values of protecting life.
We are wary of a system marred by wastefulness, arbitrariness, and inaccuracy.
And we’re letting our position be known. North Carolina is in keeping with the rest of the nation: polls show as a state, the death penalty is falling out of favor. Yet North Carolina continues to spend millions of dollars a year on an unpopular punishment that is rarely used.
We believe in smart crime-fighting tools that are efficient and have proven results. The death penalty fails at both.
For a national perspective, visit the Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty: conservativesconcerned.org