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Capital questions

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Alan Gell is being tried this month in Bertie County for the murder of Allen Jenkins, a murder that Gell could not possibly have committed, according to scientific and eyewitness testimony. Gell has already been sent to death row for this murder once, thanks in large part to two prosecutors who withheld evidence that would have shown Gell to be innocent.

Attorney General Roy Cooper has had very little to say publicly about the Gell case, although he did order the re-prosecution of Gell after Gell's conviction was overturned. Since Cooper has had so little to say about this outrageous case, and since the N.C. Department of Justice has been on the wrong side of so many cases and issues lately, it's time for Cooper to answer some questions for the benefit of all North Carolinians.

Here are 10 questions for Roy Cooper:

1. Why is the state prosecuting Alan Gell again for murder, even after the state's star witness recanted her scientific testimony from the first trial and now contends that Gell could not possibly have been the killer, since Gell was either in another state or in jail when the murder was committed?

2. What discipline, if any, will Cooper and the State Bar give to the two prosecutors who withheld critical evidence from the defense in Gell's first trial, despite repeated orders by the judge to turn it over?

3. Will the Department of Justice issue any kind of formal apology to Darryl Hunt, a Winston-Salem man who served 18 years in prison for a brutal murder that DNA evidence has shown Hunt did not commit?

4. Why does the Attorney General keep scheduling executions at a quickening, sickening pace despite the state Senate's passage last year of a moratorium on executions?

5. Why is Cooper seeking to execute George Page on Feb. 27, despite Page's documented, extensive history of mental illness exacerbated by his experience as a serviceman in Vietnam?

6. Why did the state Department of Justice, obsessed with winning rather than achieving justice, oppose a new sentencing hearing granted to death-row inmate Michael Eric Maske, whose case was so outrageously flawed that even the conservative N.C. Supreme Court threw out his death sentence?

7. Will Cooper punish the attorneys in his office who withheld critical evidence from the lawyers for death-row inmate Glen Chapman--evidence that the victim in Chapman's case was alive 12 hours after prosecutors said she was with Chapman, and evidence that state attorneys simply refused to turn over?

8. If the U.S. Supreme Court should decide, in the upcoming Roper v. Simmons case, that executing children is unconstitutionally cruel and unusual, will Cooper lead efforts to remove the five men from N.C.'s death row who were minors at the time of their offenses?

9. Why has Cooper's office pushed so hard in the past few months for the execution of people who were probably innocent (Henry Hunt), sentenced to death in part because they were gay (Eddie Hartman), or who were severely mentally ill or brain-damaged (Timmy Keel, Joseph Bates, and others)?

10. Will Cooper support increased accountability for prosecutors who play dirty by advocating the elimination of the "harmless error" standard, thereby creating an actual deterrent to misconduct while giving defendants a better shot at a fair trial?

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