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Georgia execution anniversary sparks concerns over N.C. death penalty

RALEIGH, N.C. – A year ago this month, Georgia death-row inmate Troy Davis was executed for the murder of a police officer. It was a crime he denied up until his death, and his execution sparked protests around the world. Opponents of the death penalty in North Carolina are using the anniversary of Davis’ death as a platform to discuss the issue.

Attorney Kristin Parks (’95) represents North Carolina death row inmate Melvin White, who denies he committed the 1995 murder of which he is accused. Parks says there is mounting evidence that White is innocent, and sentencing people to death doesn’t work in what she calls an imperfect system.

“If we can’t ensure that people really are guilty of these crimes, then we shouldn’t have a death penalty. At least if they’re alive, we can try and fix it.”

Mark Rabil, director of the Wake Forest University School of Law’s Innocence and Justice Clinic, says White is one reason why the state should reconsider the punishment.

“Another problem is there are innocent people we believe currently on death row in North Carolina,” Rabil said. “His case shows that there’s probably at least one innocent person on death row, and we believe more.”

North Carolina has exonerated seven men from its death row, and Rabil says individuals remain on death row in the state despite strong evidence of innocence.

Since 1973, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, 140 inmates sitting on death rows nationwide were exonerated and released.