The four prisoners accused of carrying out the deadliest prison escape attempt in North Carolina history could now face the death penalty.
Inmates Wisezah Buckman, Mikel Brady, Seth Frazier and Jonathan Monk have been charged with first degree murder as well as other crimes related to their failed escape attempt in October.
The men were working in a sewing plant at Pasquotank Correctional Institute when they attacked the only guard on duty, Justin Smith, as well as the plant manager, Veronica Darden, officials have said.
The four inmates stand accused of attacking officers with tools like hammers and scissors, setting a fire at the prison as a distraction, and finally fighting hand-to-hand with guards who caught up with them as they tried to get out.
One of the accused, Buckman, wrote a letter to the Charlotte Observer in which he admitted to trying to escape but nothing more. He said one of the other inmates told him about their plan at the last minute and he joined in because “all I want to do is see my children and tell them I love them.” Buckman called the officers “innocent people.”
The local district attorney said the state wants the four men executed because they attacked law enforcement officers, WAVY reported.
Corrections officers in North Carolina don’t have to be law enforcement officers – a fact that has raised the ire of the State Employees Association of North Carolina. The lobbying group wants prison workers to get that classification so they can receive better benefits. SEANC had been pushing for the change before the Pasquotank attacks but has ramped up its pressure on lawmakers since then.
It’s unclear what might befall the inmates if they are convicted and sentenced to death.
While the death penalty does still technically exist in North Carolina, the state has not executed anyone since 2006. Since then, at least seven men who had been convicted of murder have had their convictions thrown out and were freed from prison. Five of them had been sentenced to death.
There are still 143 people on death row, including 140 men and three women.
Doran: 919-836-2858; Twitter: @will_doran