Murderer Marcus Robinson of Fayetteville, N.C., was hours away from execution in 2007, but his life was spared by a court-ordered stay to give him and other inmates a chance to challenge the constitutionality of the state's method of execution, says the Fayetteville Observer. The delay turned into an unofficial moratorium on executions that nearly six years later remains unresolved in the courts. Robinson this year he became the first - and, so far, the only - North Carolina inmate to use the Racial Justice Act of 2009 to have his death sentence commuted to life in prison without parole.
The Racial Justice Act, other changes to death penalty law, and a decline in jurors' willingness to sentence inmates to death are raising questions about the future of executions in the state. It's unclear when the state will resume administering its ultimate punishment. "It's been over six years now since an execution has been carried out, so we're a state that still has the death penalty as a law but does not have executions as a reality," said Ben David, district attorney in New Hanover County. He heads the N.C. Conference of District Attorneys and a death penalty supporter.