11/02/2007 05:58 PM
By: Cassie Safrit
Eighteen former death row inmates from across the nation who have now been freed came to North Carolina on Friday hoping to end the state's death penalty once and for all.
RALEIGH -- National and state controversy has the death penalty on hold, but some want more than a temporary fix. That’s why former death row inmates who have now been freed came to North Carolina hoping to prompt a change.
"I spent six and a half years on death row for a crime I did not commit,” said Jay Smith. One by one, people like Jay Smith came forward with their own stories:
“My name is Ron Keine. I spent two years on death row in New Mexico for a crime I did not commit.”
In all, 18 former death row inmates from across the country who have now been exonerated gathered in front of the General Assembly on Friday to ask for a moratorium on the death penalty.
"If we are about fairness, if we are about justice, we can't afford to have a system run by human beings that makes mistakes, that has a punishment that can't be undone,” explained Ray Krone.
Former death row inmates who have now been freed came to North Carolina hoping to prompt a change. North Carolina has not executed an inmate since August of last year because of a dispute over what role a doctor should play in executions. Several lawsuits remain unresolved and there's no end in sight for the de facto moratorium.
“We've got to bring this death penalty to an end,” said Darby Tillis. “It serves no purpose at all. It’s racist, biased and prejudiced.”
Some North Carolina lawmakers agree.
"We want the innocent out of jail and the criminals in jail and we have a mixture right now,” said state Rep. Pricey Harrison.
But so far, those attempts have been futile. A bill that called for a moratorium stalled last session, and many legislators think that will be the case again.
"I see the trend going our way,” Harrison said. “We're a few votes short and I don't see us passing it.”
But the 18 free men who were once death row inmates say they'll keep fighting.
"What happened to me 27 years ago is still happening to young men today,” Darby said.
The Witness to Innocence Group sponsored Friday's rally. According to the group, North Carolina has had five death row inmates exonerated.