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North Carolina Supreme Court Rules on Death Penalty Question

The highest court in North Carolina ruled that the Council of the State has the right and the authority to guide the execution process for inmates on death row. The North Carolina Supreme Court found in favor of the Council in a suit brought by death row inmates who alleged that their criminal defense rights were infringed up on by allowing the Council to set the execution protocol.

The death penalty has been the subject of great controversy in North Carolina in recent years. Many critics of the death penalty call the state's use of lethal injection inhumane and cruel. The NC Supreme Court, however, failed to rule on the merits of the lethal injection. Instead, the Court deferred to the Council to set the standards and procedures for execution.

The Council of the State is a 10 member group of elected officials. Current council members include the attorney general, the lieutenant governor and the commissioner of agriculture. The Council voted in 2007 to alter the procedures for a lethal injection, which prompted this suit by the death row inmates.

The North Carolina death penalty was on a de facto moratorium following a petition in 2006 that called procedures cruel and unusual. Another controversial development in the North Carolina death penalty debate was the ability for an inmate to challenge a sentence with statistical evidence to show racial bias in the system.

Source: Wall Street Journal "NC Supreme Court Lets State Council Set Execution Standards," 10/10/2011

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