Monday, September 26, 2011

NC/ GEORGIA: Death Penalty Debate Heats Up


Asheville and Georgia cases ignite death penalty debate:
One execution, two exonerations raise questions of justice

From Sunday 25, 2011 Asheville Citizen Times FRONT PAGE article and posted by Acury here


Death penalty debate heats up: Today's Top Headline in the Asheville Citizen-Times
GO here

Asheville and Georgia cases ignite death penalty debate
One execution, two exonerations raise questions of justice

ASHEVILLE — Fifteen hours stood between the execution of Troy Davis amid questions over his true guilt and the sunny afternoon two Asheville men exonerated in another murder case walked free.

But the cases stand out for reasons other than just timing. Though each held significant differences from the other, they both have reignited debate over the death penalty and imperfections within our justice system.

Davis, convicted of killing an off-duty police officer in Georgia in 1989, was given a trial.

Kenneth Kagonyera and Robert Wilcoxson pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in a 2000 slaying under threats from investigators and prosecutors and even their own attorneys and family, who wanted to spare them life in prison or the possibility of a death sentence.

Davis gained national attention, with even the pope questioning his guilt.
The case of Kagonyera and Wilcoxson generated passing interest before they were freed Thursday.

But where Davis had to work within the court system, Kagonyera and Wilcoxson had the N.C. Innocence Inquiry Commission.

Its success with their case will give new momentum to calls for similar justice system checks in other states.

“Courts are traditionally jaded and don’t want to believe people can be wrongfully convicted,” said Winston-Salem attorney Mark Rabil, who heads the Wake Forest University School of Law Innocence and Justice Clinic.

“Somebody needs to be looking over the court system,” he said.

N.C. commission unique:

North Carolina has the nation’s only investigative innocence commission.
It examines and evaluates post-conviction claims of factual innocence and can refer cases to a three-judge panel for a ruling.

The commission’s budget is $403,714 a year for a staff of five.

The federal government kicked in another $566,890 for 18 months starting in January 2010. The money funds two additional attorneys to investigate homicide and sex offense cases in which DNA testing can be used.

The Kagonyera and Wilcoxson case, stemming from a robbery and killing in Fairview, was handled under the federal grant.


Submitted By:

Alexandra Cury

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