Democrats in the state House plan to file a bill Wednesday to end the death penalty.

“The death penalty is an outdated and barbaric tool that costs North Carolina millions of dollars every year while doing nothing to make our communities safer,” Representative Graig Meyer, a Democrat from Hillsborough, said in a press release. “Recently, Henry McCollum was exonerated after thirty years on death row for a crime he didn’t commit. I want to see our tax dollars go to programs that strengthen our communities, not to a system that threatens innocent people with execution.”

McCollum had been the state’s longest-serving death row inmate until a judge—citing DNA evidence linked to another man—overturned convictions against him and his half-brother related to the murder of a young girl in Robeson County. At least four other people have been freed from death row after being exonerated since 1977, according to the state, with others being re-sentenced.

Meyer will file the bill along with representatives Zack Hawkins and MaryAnn Black, both Democrats from Durham.

Although there are 141 people on death row in North Carolina, no one has been executed in the state since 2006 amid ongoing court cases over racial bias in death penalty cases and legal challenges to the practice of lethal injection, which has been North Carolina’s only method of execution since 1998. This is the state’s second de facto moratorium on executions. The first, which began after juries were given the option of life without parole for capital crimes, ran from 1961 to 1984. (Support for the death penalty rebounded in the tough-on-crime era that followed the civil rights movement and a 1972 U.S. Supreme Court decision that temporarily abolished the death penalty, as UNC professor Seth Kotch writes in his new book, Lethal State: A History of the Death Penalty in North Carolina.)

Just over half of the people currently on death row in North Carolina are black, and only three are female. Their convictions stretch back to 1985, the most recent being a 2019 Wake County case. (Another man is currently on trial in a capital case in Wake County.) A report by the Center for Death Penalty Litigation found that the majority of North Carolina death row inmates were tried before the General Assembly passed a slate of major reforms intended to ensure fair capital trials. Earlier this year, a Public Policy Polling survey of North Carolina voters found that 50 percent favored the life in prison without parole over the death penalty. 

To mark the introduction of the bill, community arts organization Hidden Voices will perform RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW: Monologues from Death Row—based on the true stories of death row inmates. The reading is free and open to the public, and will be held April 3 at 4:30 p.m. at Christ Church, 120 East Edenton Street, in Raleigh.