Facts, figures, feelings | Front Porch | Indy Week
Pin It

Facts, figures, feelings 

At a press conference in Raleigh last week about North Carolina's death penalty, the most impressive speaker was also the least well-known. Charisse Coleman, a young writer and newcomer to the Triangle, was there to support a call by the N.C. Academy of Trial Lawyers for an immediate halt to state-sponsored executions.

Seated at a long table in front of a small crowd of reporters, Coleman listened quietly as prominent Tar Heel attorneys, law professors and anti-death penalty activists described how the system operates as a cruel lottery--unfairly targeting those who are non-white, poor and live in rural counties. She held her hands in her lap as fellow-speakers cited polls showing a decline in unequivocal public support for the death penalty. One recent study by The Charlotte Observer found 62 percent of North Carolinians surveyed favor a moratorium on executions. The Trial Lawyers' own poll put that share at 59 percent.

When it was her turn to speak, Coleman made it clear she wouldn't be citing statistics. Instead, she talked about her older brother, Russell, who was murdered five years ago during a convenience-store robbery in Louisiana. In words as precise and thorough as a police report, Coleman recounted exactly what her brother was doing when three armed men came into the store where he worked and what they said before one of them shot him in the back. The crowd sat motionless as Coleman paused to still a tremble in her voice that began when she described how her brother bled to death on the floor.

Her voice stopped trembling when she got to the heart of her speech. "Before Russell was killed, I was opposed to the death penalty. When he was killed, I was opposed to the death penalty. When his killer was sentenced, I was opposed to the death penalty," Coleman said. The desires of victim's families for justice--even vengeance--are understandable, she added, gazing steadily out at the room full of strangers. But they shouldn't be the basis for public policy.

"We have a terrible, terrible crisis of violence in this country," Coleman said. "State-sanctioned killings only add fuel to the flames."

When she took her seat, the room breathed again, and reporters began to pepper the other speakers with questions. Stories in the next day's paper focused on the polls and the politics of the call for a death-penalty moratorium. Despite the applause she'd received, it seemed Coleman's most powerful message went unheeded: When it comes to changing the death penalty, feelings are as important as facts.

Latest in Front Porch

More by Barbara Solow

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Front Porch

  • One vote

    • Nov 12, 2014
  • Box of one

    Was I paying to be helped or to feel important, a bona fide expert on only myself?
    • Sep 24, 2014
  • The Old South (Hills)

    The Old South (Hills)

    • Sep 17, 2014
  • More »


Twitter Activity

Most Recent Comments

'Anna Lee' is a truly beautiful song, Ms Dossett. And I love Levon Helm's rendition. You are blessed with a …

by Byron Miller on A song for Levon (Front Porch)

Just now seeing this....Liz and I were super close friends in the early 80s. She was so special. I had …

by RoBert 1 on In memoriam: Liz Holm, 1959–2013 (Front Porch)

Nobody will be surprised to learn that Hocutt never went to Nam. He was in the Navy but washed out …

by Jefflenter on Raleigh bad boy no more (Front Porch)

I see his concern. Yes, it was a well written story and showed his caring side for sure. But not …

by Linda Bates Terrell on Motorcycle men (Front Porch)

Follow-up to my "nervous mom" comment. The last coupe of weeks we have been in many situations with individuals that …

by paulapowers on Governor's School blues (Front Porch)

Comments

'Anna Lee' is a truly beautiful song, Ms Dossett. And I love Levon Helm's rendition. You are blessed with a …

by Byron Miller on A song for Levon (Front Porch)

Just now seeing this....Liz and I were super close friends in the early 80s. She was so special. I had …

by RoBert 1 on In memoriam: Liz Holm, 1959–2013 (Front Porch)

Most Read

  1. Recounting Him Out (Peripheral Visions)
  2. Safe Spaces (Letters to the Editor)
  3. Smug Revisionism (Letters to the Editor)
  4. Dot-con (Peripheral Visions)

© 2016 Indy Week • 201 W. Main St., Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation