North Carolina legislature passes bill limiting execution transparency

Thursday, July 30, 2015
NC Legislature passes execution bill
A bill that would allow quicker changes to NC's execution process has passed the legislature and is going to the governor.

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Are death sentences about to be carried out again in North Carolina? Gov. Pat McCrory could get the state much closer to that reality with the swipe of a pen.

The last time someone was executed in North Carolina was Aug. 18, 2006. Samuel Flippin was convicted of killing Britnie Hutton, and he was put to death for it.

Since then, because of court challenges and other obstacles, there has been a de facto moratorium on executions in North Carolina. However, one state representative is out to change that.

Rep. Leo Daughtry, a Republican from Johnston County, sponsored a bill he hopes will jump-start executions in the state. That bill is now on its way to the governor.

The bill has two provisions:

  • It removes the requirement for a licensed doctor to be in the room during an execution.
  • It keeps the names of the companies that manufacture execution drugs secret.
  • "The issue is whether or not we need a doctor present and we've tried to take care of that," said Daughtry. "We haven't had an execution in our state since 2006 because of a court decision that says you must have a doctor present when the execution takes place. This bill simply says you can have someone other than a doctor present when the execution takes place."

    Critics challenge how "simple" that is.

    "I think the doctor is important because we have seen situations where the executions go wrong," said NC ACLU Director Sarah Preston. "And when they go wrong, it's very, very serious."

    But Preston's bigger issue with the bill may be that second provision which protects companies that make execution drugs.

    "Part of the reason that's problematic is we've seen in other states where there have been issues with a pharmacist actually compounding the drug instead of getting it from the manufacturer," Preston explained. "Essentially, the pharmacist has had to try and reverse engineer the drug that's needed and that has led to the botched executions."

    To Daughtry, it's an issue of privacy.

    "I think the drug maker, if that business is disclosed, they worry about all the demonstrators that will appear at their door. So what we're trying to do is protect them," Daughtry said.

    Rep. Daughtry's bill doesn't set a date as to when executions can resume.

    "This will give the warden and the prisons the chance to start the process again," he said. "We don't carry out the laws, we simply make the laws. And this simply gives the warden and the executive branch the opportunity to carry out the process."

    Some of Daughtry's colleages aren't convinced.

    "This is going to bring on a lawsuit," said Durham Democrat Rep. Paul Luebke. "It's going to just delay anything that those who are pushing the bill want to have. Because for sure the question of the public not being able to know what drug is being used in the execution is going to bring a lawsuit. Protesting is a First Amendment issue, too. If people are upset that this company is preparing the drugs for executions, they certainly have a right - if they feel this is wrong - to hold a demonstration."

    "The other problem," Preston said, "is that by removing the protocol from public rulemaking and sort of cloaking all this in some secrecy, it's going to be harder to find out even what the drugs are. Even if it's technically public, it's not going to be published anywhere and the public is going to have to actively seek that information."

    The bill is on its way to McCrory's desk. So far, his office has not said if he's leaning one way or another.

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