Has the death penalty come to an end in NC?

From an editorial Thursday in the Fayetteville Observer:

This case is about the constitutional protection every person in America deserves. It is not about whether Marcus Reymond Robinson, Quintel Augustine, Christina Walters and Tilmon Golphin deserve our sympathy. They don’t.

Golphin and his brother killed a Cumberland County deputy and a state trooper in a 1997 traffic stop. Walters led some gang members on an initiation ritual that saw two women randomly kidnapped and killed in 1998. Augustine killed a Fayetteville police officer in 2001 – although he claims he was wrongfully convicted and is factually innocent. And Robinson killed a teenager in a 1991 robbery.

The crimes was horrific enough that they challenged our opposition to the death penalty.

But that’s the other factor here: The public and even many politicians are losing their taste for executions. The last one in North Carolina was 12 years ago and there are none scheduled, despite having 143 inmates on death row. If this state is caught up in the national trend, it’s possible that the death penalty has already come to a de facto end.

These four were removed from death row in 2012 when a judge found black jurors were illegally blocked from serving on their juries. Under the provisions of the state’s Racial Justice Act, passed in 2009, their sentences were changed to life imprisonment with no chance of parole.

The state appealed that verdict and in 2015 the N.C. Supreme Court said the trial judge had erred in the way he held the hearing and the state deserved another chance to make its case. The four killers were returned to death row. And around the same time, the General Assembly repealed the Racial Justice Act.

But now the four say their 5th Amendment rights against double jeopardy were violated when their death sentences were reinstated. The U.S. Supreme Court has interpreted the amendment to mean that once a death sentence has been revoked for a specific crime, it can’t be reimposed.

As for whether the four should be executed, that’s another question that also seems separate from this appeal. It appears the state has distanced itself from carrying out executions, but politicians lack the backbone to discuss the issue and decide whether it’s time to change this state’s maximum penalty for capital crimes to life without parole.

The best we can expect from this case is a simple ruling on a 5th amendment issue. We’ll have to wait for another time to see the debate we really need to have.

The politics of breast milk?

From a July 17 editorial in the (Greensboro) News & Record:

When did recommending that breast milk is healthier for most babies become a matter of international tension?

Webmd, the renowned repository of medical information, says that breast milk “contains antibodies that help your baby fight off viruses and bacteria.” And that babies who are breast fed “for the first six months, without any formula, have fewer ear infections, respiratory illnesses, and bouts of diarrhea.”

What could be wrong with that? Apparently a lot.

So much that the U.S. has threatened tariffs and other sanctions against one of its smaller allies. During the meeting this spring in Geneva of the United Nations-affiliated World Health Assembly, a resolution reinforcing that a mother’s milk is healthiest for children and encouraging countries to limit inaccurate marketing of alternate products met strong opposition from the U.S. delegation.

The New York Times reported that American officials wanted language that called for governments to “protect, promote and support breast-feeding” to be removed, along with other verbiage about the potential issues with some food products for young children. The Times, citing sources among diplomats and officials, reported that the Americans told Ecuador, the sponsoring country, that if it failed to drop the resolution, the U.S. would “unleash punishing trade measures and withdraw crucial military aid.”

And then, a few days later, came this tweet from President Trump, first blaming the Times: “The U.S. strongly supports breast feeding but we don’t believe women should be denied access to formula. Many women need this option because of malnutrition and poverty.”

Yes, that makes sense: Moms need to be aware of formula, or we’re coming to get you, Ecuador. Don’t our leaders have better things to do?