Sunday, 4 November 2007

Death Row Innocent Vouch For NC Moratorium

Friday, Nov 02, 2007 - 06:15 PM Updated: 07:16 PM

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Gary Drinkard spent five years on Alabama’s death row for a robbery and murder he did not commit.

“You’re sacred to death every day,” Drinkard said. "If it had been up to the state of Alabama I'd be dead today." Discuss This Story

Drinkard and 17 others exonerated from death row say there should be a moratorium on the death penalty in North Carolina. They visited Raleigh with the group “Witness to Innocence” to voice their opinion.

Freddie Lee Pitts was 19 years old when he was sentenced. He spent nine and a half years on Florida’s death row for the murder of two service station attendants, a crime he did not commit.

"Wrong color, wrong place, wrong time,” Pitts said. "The irony of this is that I was in court being sentenced to death on Aug. 28, 1963, which was the day of the big march in Washington when Martin Luther King gave his ‘I have a dream’ speech, while I was having a nightmare."

Drinkard and Pitts both are supporting moratoriums on the death penalty across the country that says false confessions and false witness identifications are sending innocent people to death. State senators and representatives joined the rally to support a moratorium so the issue can be studied.

But in the fight for justice there are voices for victims. Wake County District Attorney C. Colon Willoughby believes in some cases, the death penalty is justified.

"There are certain crimes that are so horrendous that the community ought to make the decision what the appropriate punishment is," Willoughby said.

The exonerated men say it’s the system the community needs to look at.

“I actually believed in the death penalty until I saw how the justice system really worked,” Drinkard said.

The group “Witness to Innocence” said since 1973, 124 innocent people have been exonerated from death rows across the United States. Five of them were released from North Carolina's death row.

Executions have been on hold in North Carolina anyway because of a different debate over doctors' roles in the process. In January, the Medical Board re-wrote its ethics policy, saying it would punish any doctor who took part in an execution. That case is still held up in the courts.

Meanwhile, this week the American Bar Association said it wanted the death penalty halted across the United States because of the way evidence and testimony had been handled in several death penalty cases.

Learn more about the death penalty.

No comments: