Alfred Rivera spent 22 months on North Carolina's death row before new evidence proved his innocence. Last week, Rivera, from High Point, joined about 150 others for a march and rally in downtown Raleigh in support of a moratorium on executions.
Standing across the street from the governor's mansion, Rivera told the assembly he believed many of the men he had lived with on death row were innocent. Specifically he mentioned David Junior Brown (aka Dawud Abdullah Muhammad), a man who was executed last Nov. 20 in Central Prison despite an international outpouring of pleas to Gov. Jim Hunt to commute Brown's sentence because of doubts concerning his guilt.
David Junior Brown was "a man executed innocent," Rivera said. "I knew this man. I knew this man's heart. He was innocent. He didn't have the chance I had."
Chris Fitzsimon of the Common Sense Foundation led the crowd in a chant: "It's all about class. It's all about race. Executions are a total disgrace." Fitzsimon noted that homicide is the official cause of death listed on an executed prisoner's death certificate. "It's time to stop calling what our state does 'executions.' It's time to stop calling it capital punishment. Folks, what we're doing is murder."
Wilmington author Jim Megivern, a nationally recognized expert on capital punishment, said if one person were executed each day, it would take almost 10 years to execute the more than 3,600 people on death rows in the United States today. "We are engaged in a systematic massacre that has only just begun unless we stop it," Megivern said.
With three executions scheduled in a four-week period, it's obvious that the growing support for a moratorium won't come soon enough to save the lives of Michael Sexton (Nov. 9), Marcus Carter (Nov. 22) and Russell Tucker (Dec. 9). "We expect our General Assembly to enact a moratorium next year and begin to study the death penalty in depth for the first time," says Steve Dear, executive director of People of Faith Against the Death Penalty. "We must not execute anyone before that happens."