Hackney Hesitant Of Considering NC Execution Change

House Speaker Joe Hackney is sounding hesitant to consider legislation that attempts to resolve an impasse over the role of doctors during executions.

Hackney said yesterday that Governor Easley's office has told him any change could prolong the legal fight.

Several Republicans have filed bills that would take away the North Carolina Medical Board's authority to punish doctors involved in capital punishments.

The medical board declared in January that any doctor who participates in an execution violates medical ethics and could face sanction.

That threat has effectively shut down the death penalty in the state as the conflict between state attorneys and the medical board is litigated. The legal morass has led to an unofficial moratorium on executions with a Wake County judge placing five scheduled executions on hold.

State law requires that a doctor only be present when an inmate is put to death, but a federal judge allowed an execution to proceed last year only after the state promised a physician would monitor the inmate to prevent suffering.