The national debate over capital punishment has proceeded in a variety of disparate directions, with some states deciding to end the practice altogether. But in North Carolina, the Republican-led legislature has apparently concluded that the status quo on executions needs to be tweaked in a more alarming way – making it easier for the state to kill people with greater secrecy.
WRAL in Raleigh reported earlier this week (thanks to reader G.S. for the tip):
With little debate, the North Carolina Senate voted along party lines 33-16 Monday night to approve a bill aimed at restarting executions in the state.The legislation, House Bill 774, would repeal the current law requiring that a physician be present to monitor all executions…. The bill would also remove from public record the names of companies that make, supply or deliver the drugs used in lethal injection, and it would exempt the execution protocol itself from the oversight of the state’s Rules Review Commission.There would be no public oversight of the protocol, nor would that information – from the types of drugs to the doses to the sequence – be required to be made public.
According to local reports, North Carolina hasn’t been able to kill any of its prisoners since 2006, in large part because doctors in the state balked, creating a de facto moratorium.
So, GOP state lawmakers determined that if state law requires doctors to oversee executions, and doctors won’t go along, it’s time to change the law so that doctors need only sign the death certificate after the execution takes place. Instead, the new state law would allow physician assistants, nurse practitioners, or EMTs to monitor the executions.
As for the secrecy, North Carolina has a Public Records Act, but this new push would create an exception to the state law – when North Carolina kills prisoners with a chemical cocktail, the contents can be kept secret. The names of the pharmaceutical companies that supply the drugs will also be hidden from public scrutiny.
The name of the legislation is the “Restoring Proper Justice Act,” apparently because its sponsors’ sense of humor leans towards the macabre.
A report from the News & Observer added that the state House, which also has a Republican majority, has already approved a similar measure, but the two versions will have to be reconciled and passed in each chamber.
Gov. Pat McCrory (R) has not yet said whether he intends to sign the bill. The state currently has 148 people who’ve been sentenced to death.