There are so many reasons to end the death penalty. We could talk about it for days and never come to the end of its injustices. But in this interview, CDPL’s Executive Director Gretchen M. Engel condenses it to thirty minutes.
In that short time, she explains how most of the people on North Carolina’s death row were sentenced under outdated laws, the “barbaric” lack of protections for people with mental illness, the ways that exonerations have woken people up to the injustice of the death penalty, the nonsensical way we decide who to try capitally in North Carolina, the scourge of prosecutorial misconduct, and Wake County’s strange insistence on frequent capital trials, despite the fact that juries keep saying no to the racist, unjust death penalty. And that’s not even a complete list!
After thirty years as a capital defense lawyer, Gretchen has seen North Carolina transform from a state where prosecutors almost always won and people were regularly executed, to one where death sentences are rare and executions haven’t been carried out in fifteen years. She’s never wavered in her conviction that she’s fighting for the right side, but it used to feel like the losing side. Now, she says prosecutors are most often the losers as they fight for death sentences in a state that has outgrown executions. “I’d much rather be in my lane than that one.”