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Special to the NNPA from the Wilmington Journal
Published: 07 May 2011

The death penalty system in North Carolina costs millions of dollars a year and does not make the state safer, a new report from Appalachian State University Professor Dr. Matthew Robinson reveals.

Robinson, Professor of Government and Justice Studies at Appalachian State University, analyzed years of data about the state's capital punishment system, from dozens of sources. His analysis showed that the death penalty is expensive, ineffective, and biased — and that it poses a serious risk to innocent people.

"All the data point to one obvious conclusion," said Robinson, who released his findings at a recent press conference on in Raleigh. "Our state's capital punishment system is broken, and our lawmakers should take a serious look at whether it is still serving the interests of North Carolina."

Robinson was joined by three other scholars, Dr. Frank Baumgartner and Dr. Seth Kotch, of UNC Chapel Hill, and Dr. Miriam DeLone, of Fayetteville State University, all of whom agreed that the death penalty is no longer an effective or fair punishment.

"Among other things, this report shows that the death penalty does not deter crime," said Frank Baumgartner, Professor of Political Science at UNC Chapel Hill.  "We haven't executed anyone since 2006, and the murder rate has gone down.  If the death penalty isn't making us safer, why do we cling to this punishment?"

Robinson said his analysis led to five key conclusions:


1. The death penalty is extremely rare in North Carolina.  The number of death sentences has declined precipitously since 2000, and only about three people a year are sentenced to death. That means that fewer than 0.3 percent of murders result in a death sentence.  No one has been executed since 2006.

2. The death penalty does not deter crime.  Since executions stopped in 2006, North Carolina's murder rate has declined. Numerous studies have shown that the death penalty does not affect crime rates, and no study has ever shown North Carolina's death penalty reduced crime.

3. Capital punishment system does not have any deterrent effects.Experts, police chiefs and citizens all overwhelmingly believe that the death penalty does not reduce crime.

4. The death penalty costs North Carolina millions of dollars a year, far more than other punishments. The data shows that capital murder cases cost the state nearly four times as much as non-capital cases. Studies have found that, despite its infrequent use, the death penalty is costing North Carolina between $11 million and $20 million a year.

5. The death penalty is used unfairly.Nearly 80 percent of death sentences imposed in North Carolina is in cases where the victim was White, even though only 43 percent of the state's murder victims are White. Study after study has shown that those who kill Whites are far more likely to be sentenced to death, especially minority men accused of killing White women.

6. Innocent people are being wrongly sentenced to death.Seven people have been exonerated and freed from North Carolina's death row since 1973, giving North Carolina the seventh highest error rate in the nation. Six of the seven exonerated men were minorities, and all seven were sentenced to death for killing White victims. Statewide, two out of three death sentences are overturned on appeal.


"What do we get for all the money we spend on the death penalty?" Robinson said. "We get a punishment that is almost never used, that is mired in racial bias and that threatens the lives of innocent people. It defies logic to continue using a system like that."


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