Will North Carolina win a moratorium?

Moratorium Lobby Day drew around 200

By: Brad Ward

North Carolinians to the state capital to try and persuade their representatives to vote yes on bill S-972. The bill, which surprised everyone by passing the state Senate last summer, has yet to be introduced to the house floor. S-972 calls for a moratorium on executions for two years while an investigative committee looks into the problems of North Carolina’s death row. -->

Lobby Day, organized by North Carolina Coalition for a Moratorium was punctuated by a lunchtime forum featuring Darryl Hunt and Alan Gell. Hunt was recently exonerated after serving 19 years of a life sentence locked up for a crime he didn’t commit. Gell, who was exonerated within a month of Hunt, served nine years on death row. "No question there are problems with North Carolina’s death row, Gell said. "I’m a problem, Mr. Hunt’s a problem, and they’re problems that we can’t accept."

The speakers made it very clear that innocent people will pay the price for continued use of the death penalty. "Me and Mr. Gell are just two people, but we are two innocent people who went through hell," Hunt told the audience. "The system doesn’t work, the system failed."

The possibilities for a moratorium now lie completely with the North Carolina House of Representatives. In fact, the odds of bill S-972 even reaching the house floor are questionable. And if it doesn’t see a vote by the end of this congressional session, expected to end in early July, the bill dies, and the whole process must start again.

Unfortunately, there is little on-the-ground activism in North Carolina to help grease the wheels of this legislative clunker. Lobbying, while being an important strategy in the fight for a moratorium, should be coupled with protests, pickets and rallies. We need to push the movement outward and involve as broad a layer of people as possible. Time will tell if this happens in time to salvage the moratorium.