Facing Controversy: Struggling with Capital Punishment in North Carolina

Ca. 1983: Pages from typed draft of "Preserving the Constitution: the Autobiography of Senator Sam J. Ervin, Jr." (excerpt includes pages 167-170)

This text is from a chapter titled "Illustrative Judicial Aberrations." Ervin, the former judge and N.C. Supreme Court justice, argues that the decision in Furman v Georgia was flawed in that the majority did not rightly consider the intent of the framers of the 8th amendment to the Constitution. He further suggests that each justice in the majority should have been deterred by noting that "none of his predecessors was smart enough to make such a discovery [that capital punishment constitutes cruel and unusual punishment] during the 181 years between December 15, 1791...and June 29, 1972." Ervin goes on to condemn "activist" judges, and to suggest that death is a proper punishment for inflicting death, and that capital punishment does deter at least in the sense of preventing any further crimes by the executed. He joins Walter Clark, one-time chief justice of the N.C. Supreme Court, in declaring that "Enough has been done for those who murder; it is time to do something for those who do not wish to be murdered."

(Image from Sam Ervin Jr. Papers, #3847, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

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Ca. 1983: Pages from typed draft of 'Preserving the Constitution: the Autobiography of Senator Sam J. Ervin, Jr.' - Page 168

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