Death by fiat

by YES! Staff

The first editorial written for this newspaper, which appeared in our first issue, took a stand against the barbaric death penalty that was the law of the land in North Carolina when we began in 2005.

Since then, though our position has not changed, the issue has evolved.

In 2007, the NC Medical Board decided that its doctors could not ethically participate in executions, effectively putting the kibosh on this sate-sanctioned murder that’s been in practice here since colonial times.

The killing stopped because state law dictates that a medical doctor must be present during executions. While the death penalty was still the law of the land, it had become, de facto, illegal.

To be pro death penalty is to be cy nical, denying the existence of redemption, defining fellow humans by the worst things they have ever done.

In 2009, the Racial Justice Act allowed those condemned to death to have their cases revisited, to see if racism played a role in their convictions. Most of the 153 African-American  inmates on death row requested that their executions be commuted to life sentences.

A year later it was revealed that the State Bureau of Investigation’s serology lab had been withholding exculpatory evidence from defendants; three men of color were executed based on some of this tainted evidence.

It seemed that the death penalty was not long for North Carolina — too late for the thousand or so who have had their lives snuffed out in the name of the people, but certainly a promising move towards a more ethical and just procedure.

Last week, Gov, Pat McCrory, with the support of accomplices in both houses of the General Assembly, undid all the progress that had been made toward humanitarianism and civility with the stroke of a pen. By signing a bill repealing the Racial Justice Act, and in conjunction with another bill working through the House that would lift sanctions from the NC Medical Board for doctors willing to participate in executions, McCrory opens the door for more state-sanctioned murder.

To be pro death penalty is to be cynical, denying the existence of redemption, defining fellow humans by the worst things they have ever done. The death penalty forces us to reduce human life to something granted by the government, because we give the government the power to take it away.

And it makes murderers out of every single resident of the state.

The long and short of it is that we shouldn’t be the ones to decide who gets to live and who dies. Human life is not ours to grant; neither is it ours to take away.

We don’t often invoke religion here in the editorial pages, but it’s worth noting here that Jesus Christ himself was a victim of the death penalty. Imagine what he could have accomplished with another 30 years on this planet? And contrary to one popular argument in support of the practice, his death did not have the intended effect of deterring anyone from following him.

YES! Weekly chooses to exercise its right to express editorial opinion in our publication. In fact we cherish it, considering opinion to be a vital component of any publication. The viewpoints expressed represent a consensus of the YES! Weekly editorial staff, achieved through much deliberation and consideration .