North Carolina – “It has been sixteen years since the last execution in North Carolina, yet the death penalty remains on the books.” So begins a public service announcement sent to our newspaper promoting a film and discussion opposed to the death penalty.
It goes on to say, “To honor this anniversary, please join the NC Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (NCCADP) for a presentation and screening of the film “Racist Roots.” This 25-minute film, created by the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, exposes the death penalty’s “deep entanglement with slavery, lynching, and racism.”
I have not researched the death penalty’s roots to find out if they are racist or not. I know the concept can be found all the way back to the Old Testament when, in the book of Genesis, the Bible says, “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man, shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made man.” There in the Bible, it is clear that it should be applied equally, not based on skin color.
My question would be, is the death penalty being applied fairly today? I, for one, believe some people commit crimes so heinous as to warrant their own forfeiture to life. I think it should be extremely hard to impose such a sentence and that there should be DNA or several eyewitnesses to that crime to ensure an innocent person is not being put to death.
I’m a big fan of old movies, and one of my favorites is the 1957 black and white movie “12 Angry Men.” The website IMDB.com summarizes the movie like this: “The jury in a New York City murder trial is frustrated by a single member whose skeptical caution forces them to more carefully consider the evidence before jumping to a hasty verdict.”
The movie gives a conceivable scenario for the 1950s where people’s prejudices could have played into a verdict. An all-white jury found a Hispanic teen guilty of murdering his father, except for the effort of one jurist who was not willing to make a quick decision and made the others on the jury think. It’s well worth a watch. You don’t have those kinds of juries anymore, as juries are much more diverse.
The cast is one of the greatest ever assembled in a movie that takes place pretty much inside a jury room. Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, Martin Balsam, John Fiedler E.G. Marshall, Jack Klugman Jack Warden, and Ed Begley, just to name a few. However, this commentary is about the death penalty, not movies, so I apologize for my digression. To do away with the death penalty is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater, and sometimes you need all the tools in the toolbox for a crime.
The public service announcement goes on to say, “The film [‘Racist Roots’ not 12 ‘Angry Men’] highlights the diverse voices that are central to the movement to end North Carolina’s death penalty and reminds us why we must work together to ensure that state-sponsored executions are never again carried out in our names.”
“Following the film, NCCADP Director Noel Nickle will facilitate a conversation focused on the movement to end the death penalty in our state. Nickle serves as the executive director of the North Carolina Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. Noel has worked as a mitigation specialist on trial and post-conviction death penalty cases in North and South Carolina since 2006. Working with attorneys from The Center for Death Penalty Litigation, Noel secured life sentences for two individuals previously sentenced to death.”
If her name sounds familiar, she led “a successful community effort for the Asheville City Council to adopt a resolution supporting a moratorium on the death penalty.”
If you are interested in attending the event, it will be on Sunday, August 21st from 2:30 pm to 4 pm via Zoom. However, they did not include the zoom link in their email and it wasn’t listed on their website.
Editor’s Note: Learn more about the NCCADP on page 14.