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August 16, 2006

The inconsistent pace of executions

This article from North Carolina explores reasons why capital defendants are not typically executed in the same order they are sent to death row.  Here are some highlights:

Eighty-seven other inmates have been on death row in North Carolina longer than Samuel Flippen. But Flippen is the next scheduled to die.... Many variables can affect the length of a prisoner's stay on death row, including the zeal of prosecutors after the sentencing or even the level of community outrage at the crime....

The scheduling of post-conviction proceedings and the issues raised in post-conviction appeals can influence how fast a case moves through the system, which in turn affects when an execution date is scheduled.... The deputy attorney general handling the post-conviction proceedings can help dictate case movement. An aggressive attorney handling a capital case can be the difference between it staying active in the courts or becoming dormant, legal officials said.

Charles Harp II, one of Flippen's former attorneys, said that prosecutors in post-conviction sometimes push for cases that they feel deserve to be heard quickly.... Gerda Stein, a staff member at the Center for Death Penalty Litigation in Durham, agreed with Harp that prosecutors can control whether a case "falls asleep" or whether it gets moved through the system. "Sometimes prosecutors really want to push a certain case," Stein said. "It can be a case they feel strongly about, the community felt strongly about or family members."... "If the victim's family calls, that can wake up the case," Stein said.

August 16, 2006 at 07:39 AM | Permalink

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