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Controversies

Hanging of Peter Smith in Marshall, N.C.

Public Access
Until about a hundred years ago, executions in North Carolina were very public affairs. Newspaper accounts from the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early-twentieth centuries describe large crowds of spectators at executions...[Read on]

Diagram of the lethal gas chamber at Central Prison in Raleigh, N.C.

Method
State and local jurisdictions have changed execution methods over the years. These shifts have involved perceptions of public sensibilities, as well as legal and political considerations...[Read on]

Mugshots of Frank Dove, George Williams, and Fred Dove

Race
Race has always been a significant aspect of any serious discussion of the fairness and appropriateness of capital punishment in North Carolina and the American South. The nature and intensity...[Read on]

25 January 1963: Paul Green to Ruby E. McArthur.

Victims' Rights
Every capital crime, of course, has a victim or victims, and deep sympathy for these individuals is virtually universal. But opinions vary greatly on how support for victims should be officially expressed...[Read on]

23 November 1973: Mailgram from Lucy Kerns, Alexandria, Va., to Senator Sam Ervin.

Politics
A 2004 Harris poll asked respondents, "Do you believe in capital punishment, that is, the death penalty, or are you opposed to it?" Of those polled, 69% indicated that they believed in it, 22% said that they opposed it...[Read on]

27 March 1973: U.S. Senate Bill S.1401. (detail)

Legality
Perhaps the most basic legal question concerning the death penalty is defining, by law, which crimes will be punishable by death — which criminals will be legally subject to this form of punishment...[Read on]

Lloyd Ray Daniels to his mother

Religion
Genesis 9:6 reads, "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man." In Matthew 5:38-39, Jesus says...[Read on]