Town of Winfall, NC becomes first town in Eastern North Carolina to call for repeal of death penalty

unnamedThe Town of Winfall, NC is now the first local government in Eastern North Carolina to call on the state to repeal the death penalty.

On Monday night the Winfall Town Council voted to endorse a resolution calling on North Carolina to repeal the death penalty and use some of the money the state would save to create a new program to help murder victims’ family members.

Winfall is now the sixth local government in the state to call for ending the death penalty. The others are Boone, Carrboro, Chapel Hill, Durham, and Orange County.

The nonprofit group People of Faith Against the Death Penalty asked Winfall’s Town Council to endorse the resolution as part of its campaign to build grassroots support for repealing the death penalty. PFADP staff spoke with council members for about 30 minutes during the meeting.

The resolution refers to a recent study published by the National Academy of Sciences concluding that one in 25 people sentenced to die in recent decades has been innocent.  More than 140 people have been exonerated from death row after being determined to be innocent, the resolution states. It also cites a North Carolina Superior Court decision concluding that “intentional and systematic racial bias” plays a “persistent, persuasive and distorting role” in North Carolina’s death penalty. The resolution cites a Duke University professor’s study that every year North Carolina spends more than $10 million on the death penalty more than it would if the state only had life imprisonment without parole.

“There are really two death penalties,” Stephen Dear told the Winfall Town Council. Dear is executive director of People of Faith Against the Death Penalty, based in Carrboro, NC.

“There’s the death penalty in theory, where those people who commit the worst crimes would get the most severe punishment. And then there is the death penalty in practice, which in reality sentences innocent people to die and is awash with racial bias and is extremely expensive and unfixable.”

Dear told council members that last year Maryland repealed the death penalty and a few weeks ago passed a law creating a new program to help families of murder victims using some of the money the state is saving by having repealed the death penalty.

The town council passed the resolution by a vote of 3 to 1.

Mayor Frederick Yates and Council Member Kenneth Rominger both said they support the death penalty in theory but not how it is practiced. Mayor Pro Tem Debbie J. Whedbee motioned in favor of the resolution and Council Member Preston White seconded the motion, both saying they oppose the death penalty. Council Member Steav Congdon voted against the resolution.

In addition to Winfall’s resolution, dozens of businesses in Northeastern North Carolina have endorsed resolutions calling for repeal of the death penalty.

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