Editorial: Long wait for execution
District Attorney Bill Kenerly is pursuing the death penalty against only one of the three people charged in the murder of Salisbury dentist David Boyd. Public response was quick: Why not seek death for all three?
The district attorney declines to elaborate. Considering the difficulty of getting a death sentence, of seating 12 jurors who will even consider it, and the low likelihood that it will be carried out any time soon, Kenerly no doubt weighed the decision carefully. Despite the stories of drugs and sex linked to this murder, the public knows very little about what happened in David Boyd’s home the night he was strangled to death.
So, how goes it with the death penalty in Rowan County and in North Carolina?
The last time a Rowan County jury handed down a death sentence was in May 2002. Wesley Tobe Smith had murdered 18-year-old Margaret Martin by stabbing her 53 times as she fled through the house and cutting her throat. It was Sept. 12, 2001, the day after 9/11, though there was no evidence that terrorist attacks influenced the killer. Smith was a friend of the young man Martin was living with, a friend who “gave her the creeps,” she had said. Six years later, Smith is on Death Row at Central Prison in Raleigh, along with 160 other men.
They include James Adolph Campbell, sentenced to death for killing a young woman and leaving her body in a Rowan County field in 1992; and Frank Chambers and William Barnes, who in 1992 burst into the Salisbury home of B.P. and Ruby Tutterow and murdered the elderly couple.
Death Row also houses Ernest Paul McCarver, a man from Cabarrus County who was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1987 stabbing murder of a K&W worker. That sentence was overturned. He was convicted and sentenced to death again. Then, the week he was scheduled to die in 2001, a judge stayed his execution because, as one defense lawyer said, “the evolving standards of decency in the United States are at a critical point and it’s likely the Legislature may say you’re not going to execute the mentally retarded.” McCarver had a low I.Q. and was considered borderline retarded. He still sits on Death Row.
The country’s “evolving standards of decency” are still evolving, and public support for the death penalty has fallen, according to surveys. Executions have come to a halt in North Carolina as the N.C. Medical Board fights the state’s requirement to have a doctor attend each execution. Fourteen states do not have a death penalty, but 36 do, including all of the South. As long as North Carolina is among them, Kenerly will pursue the death penalty for the most heinous crimes ó and the public will second-guess his decisions.