North Carolina will be the first state with a government body to review evidence in death penalty cases and, if warranted, send recommendations of innocence findings to a three-judge panel, says the Christian Science Monitor. “North Carolina is now the center of gravity in the death penalty debate,” says David Elliot of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. “That’s significant because the death penalty increasingly is a Southern phenomenon.”
There are 188 convicts on North Carolina’s death row. After the high-profile exonerations of death row inmate Alan Gell and “lifer” Darryl Hunt, a judicial review committee found a proliferation of both large and small mistakes that cast a shadow on the state’s justice system. The state’s two top judges will appoint a panel that must include a member of the general public, a sheriff, a victims’ advocate, a criminal defense lawyer, a prosecutor, and a state Superior Court judge. One official predicts that 30 percent of cases may have enough merit to warrant further investigation and 10 percent will receive a commission hearing.