POLITICS

North Carolina House Passes Bill Aimed At Resuming Executions After 9-Year Break

04/29/2015 10:05 pm ET | Updated Jun 29, 2015

RALEIGH, N.C., April 29 (Reuters) - North Carolina lawmakers approved a measure on Wednesday aimed at resuming executions in the state after a nine-year break by removing the requirement that a doctor be present at all lethal injections.

The state has not executed any inmates since 2006, in part due to conflicts with the state's medical board, which has threatened to punish physicians who participate in a prisoner's death.

The state's House of Representatives passed legislation in an 84-33 vote Wednesday night that would also allow nurses, physician assistants or paramedics to oversee lethal injections.

Supporters hope the measure will pave the way for prison officials to resume carrying out death sentences. There are 149 inmates on death row in North Carolina, according to the state Department of Public Safety.

"When a court hands down a decision, particularly in the matter of life and death, that decision ought to be carried out," said House Speaker Tim Moore, a Republican.

Other legislators who were critical of the measure noted that legal challenges to lethal injection protocols would likely continue to postpone executions even if the bill passes.

Some opponents focused on a recent string of exonerations and revelations of convictions based on faulty evidence.

"It should horrify us as a state that we might execute someone who is innocent," said Representative Pricey Harrison, a Democrat.

The measure still has to pass the state Senate, whose leader supports capital punishment but could not be reached on Wednesday for comment about the current legislation.

Republican Governor Pat McCrory has not indicated whether he would sign the bill into law.

Elizabeth Hambourger, an attorney with the state's Center for Death Penalty Litigation, questioned the timing of the House move. The state's longest serving death row inmate was recently exonerated.

"There are so many problems with the death penalty that are gaining exposure, to want to restart executions at this time seems like the opposite of what we ought to be doing," she said. "We should be taking a hard look at it instead." (Editing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Ken Wills)

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