A North Carolina chapter of a national network of conservatives that wants to put the brakes on — if not outright abolish — the death penalty has become active this year.
A number of prominent Republicans have joined N.C. Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty: Les Merritt, the former state auditor; Ernie Pearson, a former assistant commerce secretary; David Robinson, once the Wake County GOP chairman; Marshall Hurley, former state Republican Party general counsel; Steve Monks, former Durham County GOP chairman; Mark Edwards, the Nash County GOP chairman; and Gerald Galloway, retired police chief in Southern Pines.
The national organization last week put out a statement saying the recent release of death-row prisoner Henry McCollum and his half-brother, Leon Brown, after they were exonerated of a murder through DNA evidence, calls into question the wisdom of having a death penalty.
Last year the General Assembly passed, and Gov. Pat McCrory signed into law, a bill its sponsors said would “kick-start” the death penalty in North Carolina, which has not executed a prisoner since 2006.
“North Carolina is attempting to resume executions, but this should serve as a prominent example as to why states need to think twice,” national coordinator Marc Hyden said in the statement. “ We as a nation should consider whether the death penalty is worth the human and fiscal costs, while it fails to serve families and fails to prevent murder.”
The North Carolina chapter takes a strong stand. Earlier this week The N&O published an opinion piece by Merritt about the brothers’ exonerations in which he called for the death penalty to be replaced by life in prison without parole.
The conservative group takes its position based on their belief that the death penalty doesn’t jibe with the small-government philosophy. They also say mistaken convictions, the emotional impact on victims’ families and their pro-life stance are among the reasons people have become members.
Hyden worked for the National Rifle Association and ran a congressional campaign in western North Carolina. The other national coordinator is Heather Beaudoin, who worked for the National Republican Congressional Committee.