The Center for Death Penalty Litigation is North Carolina’s premier nonprofit law firm representing people facing the death penalty and other extreme sentences. We expose and confront racism within the criminal punishment system. Through strategic litigation, education, training, and policy reform, we strive to create a more humane and equitable society. Read more about our work.
Hasson Bacote was sentenced to death in a Johnston County courtroom in April 2009. As a Black man in a deeply segregated county with a history of racial terror, Bacote’s fate was all but sealed well before the jury issued his death sentence. Now, his case is moving forward under North Carolina’s Racial Justice Act (RJA), which allows capital defendants to challenge their death sentences on the basis that race was a significant factor in their sentences. A hearing will begin Feb. 26 in Johnston County Superior Court and force those watching to grapple with the stark reality that race plays an outsized role in the administration of the death penalty.
Usually, CDPL prefers to write about its successes. But today, we’re sharing another part of the reality of capital defense work. This is a heartfelt letter written by CDPL’s executive director, Gretchen Engel, just after receiving the news that her client, Frank Chambers, had lost his most recent appeal. Click to read the letter.
Every human being wants and deserves safety. But the question is: What makes us safe? In the United States, we’ve mostly chosen to spend our public safety budgets on arresting, incarcerating and executing people we deem criminals. We have the second largest prison population in the world behind China, with nearly 2 million people behind bars — including almost 50,000 children. We are one of only a handful of developed countries that continue to use the death penalty. How different might our society look if public safety could be reimagined as caring for people and communities?
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Help us provide the best possible representation to people facing execution and educate the public about the injustice and racist roots of the death penalty. Donate here. Or sign up here to get updates about our work.
Join the Movement
CDPL is a member of the NC Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. If you want to be a part of the grassroots movement to end the NC death penalty, please visit their website to learn and get involved.