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Activists argue for more transparency in NC death penalty

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Opponents of the death penalty and the sponsor of a bill changing North Carolina’s execution laws on Thursday debated how much transparency the public needs into the process.

The state Senate could vote as soon as next week on legislation clarifying executions are exempt from state requirements for the public rule-making process. That would allow officials to find new drugs for lethal injectionmore quickly and with less public review. The bill also eases restrictions on the types of drugs used and prohibits disclosing where they are manufactured.

When asked by a Democratic member of the Senate Judiciary Committee whether his bill decreased transparency, Rep. Leo Daughtry, R-Johnston, said he agreed it did. But he argued that a certain level of secrecy was required to protect drug manufacturers.

“If you tell them where the drug comes from, there will be 300 people outside the building,” Daughtry said.

Daughtry and staffers for the Judiciary Committee said the state Department of Public Safety voluntarily publishes details about the execution process. However, they said, a limited supply of the drugs used in lethal injections could cause the state to quickly seek alternatives.

That prompted Sen. Angela Bryant, D-Nash, to condemn the bill for limiting public debate about the execution process. Bryant tried unsuccessfully to adopt an amendment that would make state executions subject to the public rule-making process, which they are not now.

Oklahoma and other states have faced inquiries into their lethal injection protocol after several botched executions.

“Obviously, we are trying to short-circuit opposition to what is a controversial act,” Bryant said.

The Restoring Proper Justice Act would also amend the state’s death penalty law by allowing certain medical professionals other than a physician to be present for the execution. A physician would still be required on premises to certify death.

After voting down amendments proposed by Bryant, the committee voted in favor of the bill. The House passed a version of the bill in April, but if it passes the Senate, the House must then concur because of a minor technical correction.

The American Civil Liberties Union opposes the legislation, and other death penalty opponents spoke against it at the Judicial Committee hearing, as did a representative for the North Carolina Press Association.

According to the DPS website, North Carolina executes prisoners using a 5 gram dose of pentobarbital.

The last time North Carolina carried out an execution was in August 2006. The state has 148 people on death row.


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