Under the Dome

Conservative NC lawmaker argues against death penalty

Rep. Jon Hardister, a Greensboro Republican, said he thinks the death penalty should be abolished.

He has not filed a bill on the issue, saying he wants to “lay some groundwork” and find other Republican co-sponsors.

Hardister spoke Tuesday at a news conference organized by N.C. Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty. Nebraska Sen. Colby Coash, who successfully pushed death penalty abolition through his state, talked about how he came to oppose the death sentence.

Hardister acknowledged the long odds against repeal North Carolina, considering leaders in both the House and Senate support the death penalty. Earlier this session, the legislature passed a law making it easier to execute convicts by making secret the lethal injection drugs used and lifting the requirement for a doctor’s supervision.

“I’m a realistic individual,” Hardister said. “You have to start somewhere. It starts with a conversation.”

Government is inefficient and makes mistakes, he said, and it’s not clear that the death penalty deters crime.

“I don’t trust the government to do it right,” he said.

He would want the death penalty replaced with life in prison without possibility of parole.

Ernie Pearson, a Raleigh lawyer and member of the conservatives group, said he supported the death penalty until about 18 months ago, when he started thinking and praying about it.

“We do not have the right to take away a person’s life if there’s any chance that God can redeem them,” Pearson said. “Mine is a matter of faith. I feel that as a Christian I cannot support the death penalty anymore. I still consider myself a very strong law and order person.”