State: North Carolina

Capital Punishment Legislation in North Carolina: A Tale of Two Moratoriums

Capital Punishment Legislation in North Carolina: A Tale of Two MoratoriumsBy Amani Carson and Nivedha Ram

In 1972, the Supreme Court ruled on Furman v. Georgia that states’ indiscriminate and inconsistent applications of capital punishment were in violation of both the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution.1 This ruling began a national moratorium. Several states, including North Carolina, responded by revising their capital punishment protocols to satisfy the court’s concerns.

According to legal scholar Cynthia Adcock, North Carolina implemented one of the harshest, most pitiless death penalty laws in the nation – imposing a mandatory death sentence on anyone convicted of first-degree homicide with aggravating circumstances. It only took the state two years to repopulate...

From the Gallows to the Chair

In 1910, Henry Spivey was hanged for murder in Bladen County. At this last public stateexecution, The Charlotte Observer reported that as many as a thousand people witnessed thehanging. Spivey was the last person to be hanged in North Carolina; following his death, a newlaw sent the condemned to death row in the electric chair in Raleigh’s Central Prison. With theswitch from public hangings to more private executions, the state broke away from punishmentthat publicly made the tortured criminal an object of “pity or glory.” North Carolina drew a curtain over the process of death and legitimized the state’s power over the execution process.

Newspaper clipping from 1910 noting the final state-sanctioned hanging in North Carolina. Credit:...