[JURIST] Thirty Democratic members of the North Carolina General Assembly [official website] urged [press release, DOC] Gov. Mike Easley [official profile] on Tuesday to implement an immediate suspension of all state executions until an investigation shows that the state's execution protocol meets constitutional standards so as not to amount to cruel and unusual punishment. State senators are also expected to submit a bill that would create a legislative commission to study lethal injections. According to North Carolina Sen. Eleanor Kinnaird [official profile], the letter to Easley [text, DOC], which references Florida Governor Jeb Bush's recent issuance of a moratorium on executions [JURIST report] in that state, is "in response to the mounting evidence that the procedure used to execute prisoners in North Carolina has the potential to cause undue and excruciating pain."
Earlier this month, a New Jersey State commission recommended [JURIST report] that that state abolish the death penalty completely, replacing it with a life sentence without the possibility of parole. If the commission's report makes its way into law New Jersey will become the first US jurisdiction to ban capital punishment in over 35 years. In December, a federal judge in California effectively suspended capital punishment there [JURIST report] by ruling that that state's lethal injection procedure creates "an undue and unnecessary risk" of cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment of the US Constitution. In its 2006 year-end report [PDF text; press release], the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) [advocacy website] noted that the number of death sentences issued in 2006 reached the lowest level in 30 years [JURIST report]. AP has more.