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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Death Penalty

Solitary Confinement is Torture, Says UNC Report

Posted on in Due Process

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Solitary confinement is a cruel, inhuman and degrading form of punishment that amounts to torture and must no longer be used in the United States, according to Solitary Confinement as Torture, a new report released by the Human Rights Policy Seminar at the University of North Carolina School of Law.

The report, made in collaboration with the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, North Carolina Stop Torture Now, and the law firm of Edelstein and Payne, uses research and interviews with prisoners to shine a light on the cruel and ineffective use of solitary confinement in prisons, with a particular focus on North Carolina. It explains how solitary confinement cannot be squared with state, national, and international human rights laws, and offers a series of recommendations for reform.

“Solitary confinement violates the boundaries of human dignity and justice and should no longer be tolerated in North Carolina or anywhere else,” said Deborah M. Weissman, the Reef C. Ivey II Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of North Carolina School of Law, who served as faculty adviser for the report. “The evidence shows that solitary confinement is not only ineffective at decreasing violence, preserving public safety, or managing scare monetary resources, but more importantly, it often arbitrarily subjects inmates to circumstances that can be described only as torture.”


Getting It Dead Wrong for 30 Years

Posted on in Death Penalty
By Cassandra Stubbs, Director, ACLU Capital Punishment Project

According to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Henry Lee McCollum deserved to die for the brutal rape and murder of 11-year-old Sabrina Buie. There's just one problem, and a frequent one in death penalty cases: Henry Lee McCollum didn't do it.

Instead of tracking down the true killer, police and prosecutors went after Henry Lee McCollum and his half-brother Leon Brown, two intellectually disabled and innocent teenagers. While his mother wept in the hallway, not allowed to see her son, officers interrogated McCollum for five hours, ultimately coercing him to sign a confession they had written. In a trial without forensic evidence and plagued by racial bias, these two half-brothers with IQs in the 50s and 60s were sent to death row. Henry Lee McCollum and Leon Brown, whose sentence was later reduced to life in prison, have been behind bars for the last 30 years.

Last week, they were finally exonerated in another disturbing example of how deeply flawed the death penalty is, particularly for African-American men in the South.


For 45 years, the ACLU-NC has had the distinguished honor of recognizing exemplary local civil rights leaders at our annual Frank Porter Graham Awards Ceremony. This year we are honored to recognize the following four recipients at the 2014 Frank Porter Graham Awards Ceremony, which will take place Saturday, February 15, 2014, at the William and Ida Friday Center for Continuing Education in Chapel Hill.

Our keynote speaker will be acclaimed civil rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson, whom you can read more about here.

Reservation Information: Individual reservations are $100 per person. Purchase a table for ten people for $1,000 to be a sponsor of this event. Sponsors will be recognized in the program and at the event, and a placard will be placed on your table. Deadline to RSVP is February 8, 2014. Call 919-834-3466 for details.

By Cassandra Stubbs, ACLU Capital Punishment Project

For just over three years, it looked like North Carolina was going to pull out in front of states that still have the death penalty on the books. The state's Racial Justice Act was the only in the country to prohibit racial discrimination in jury selection and in the imposition of the death penalty in capital cases – bias we know to be pervasive. This week, Governor Pat McCroy repealed the law, wiping off the books a historic piece of civil rights legislation.

It is clear that the law was removed because of its successes: four North Carolina death row inmates had prevailed in showing systemic discrimination across North Carolina and in their own cases. Using the law, these defendants had uncovered evidence that prosecutors made racially derogatory notes during jury selection and discriminated against large numbers of African American prospective jurors.

We cannot help but be discouraged by such a direct assault on civil rights and racial justice by our government. Adding insult to injury, the North Carolina legislature chose the 50th anniversary of Medger Evans' murder to enact the repeal bill, and the Governor chose the anniversary of the Senate passing the Civil Rights Act to sign it. The dates are just another sign of the legislature's and the Governor's lack of concern about the protection of civil rights.