For immediate release: March 6, 2017
For More Information Contact: Gerald Galloway, 910-639-0857
Wake jury chooses life without parole instead of death for seventh time in a row
Raleigh, NC – Last Friday, for the eighth time in a row, a Wake County jury rejected the death penalty. At the end of an eight-week trial for his life, Nathan Holden received a sentence of life with no possibility of parole.
It has been nearly a decade since Wake has sent anyone to death row. Now, public safety officials are coming forward to say the death penalty is a waste of resources in the fight against crime. In a new video from the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, a longtime North Carolina police chief and a high-ranking retired prison official who helped manage more than a dozen executions say they have serious concerns about the death penalty’s errors, ineffectiveness, and high cost.
“We spend so much time and money seeking death sentences in a tiny percentage of cases, and we have to ask ourselves, what are we getting for that investment?” said Gerald Galloway, a retired Southern Pines police chief who is now among the leaders of Public Safety Officials on the Death Penalty, a group of law enforcement and corrections officials from across the U.S. who are concerned about the fairness and efficacy of the death penalty.
“We have a broken system where innocent people are sometimes sentenced to death,” Galloway said. “We promise victims’ families ‘closure,’ and then the convicted sit on death row for decades, if they are executed at all. It only makes sense that juries are rejecting the death penalty. It no longer serves any useful public safety purpose.”
Seeking the death penalty at trial is a costly gamble for prosecutors. When defendants face the death penalty, they are entitled to two attorneys. A separate sentencing phase of the trial is required. And juries in capital cases must be “death qualified,” a process that removes all jurors who oppose the death penalty.
In an urban county like Wake, where people are increasingly skeptical of the death penalty, that process can extend the trial by weeks. In Holden’s case, it took more than five weeks to seat a jury.
According to N.C. Indigent Defense Services, the average capital case costs about four times as much as a non-capital first-degree murder case.
It has been more than a decade since North Carolina executed a prisoner. In the meantime, many who formerly supported the punishment have begun to speak out against it. In May 2016, former N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice I. Beverly Lake Jr., who voted to affirm 185 death sentences, said he now believes the death penalty is unconstitutional.
Jennie Lancaster, a former Chief Deputy Secretary at the N.C. Department of Corrections, was part of a team managing 14 executions in North Carolina. She has consulted with N.C. Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty, and says she does not believe the death penalty improves public safety. She says executions are hard on prison staff and that even the most violent offenders can be managed within prison walls.
“It is a fallacy to believe that the inmates who are on death row have committed the very worst crimes in some sort of hierarchy,” she says in the new video. “We have hundreds and thousands of inmates who have done the same thing. We manage them every day.”
Learn more at cdpl.org/safety.