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Joint | September 22, 2015 | Press Room | Press Conference: Rep. Hardister

Full MP3 Audio File

Alright, it's 10 o'clock I guess we'll go ahead and get started. Good morning, my name is Representative John Hardister. It's my honor to represent District 59 in the North Carolina house and we have a very special guest with us here today, Senator Colby Coash from the state of Nebraska. He led the charge to repeal the death penalty in that state this year. It's a state that has a unicameral legislature and is non-partisan but a majority of the members are republican and is the first republican state to repeal the death penalty since the 1970's and not many people know this but I'm against the death penalty and I'm actually on record as opposing death penalty since 2010 when I first run for public office. I see Mark Banker in the audience here, I think he actually covered that race when I first ran. It's not something I've been very vocal about, but I was approached by conservatives concerned about the death penalty, he asked me if I'll be interested in hosting a press conference here, and they informed me that Senator Coash would be here visiting the state for. How many days are you here for? [xx]   A couple of days? And so, I'll tell you briefly how I arrived to the conclusion that the death penalty should be repealed. I think there are a number of reasons why it's logical for a Conservative to oppose the death penalty. I see it as a very inefficient government program, an expensive government program that cost tax payers a lot of money, there have been numerous cases in which an individual on death raw is exonerated, there have been several botched executions across the country, and this raises questions in my mind about the wisdom of capital punishment. As a conservative, I don't trust the government to carry out executions efficiently, and I'm afraid the government can make mistakes in the conviction process. For these reasons, I have arrived at the conclusion of the death penalty should be repealed and replaced with life imprisonment without parole. This is an emotional issue and I respect both sides of the discussion but I think it's a conversation we should have and that what this press conference is about, admittedly be very difficult at this time to repeal a death penalty in North Carolina because the leadership on both sides whom I have great respect for and probably agree with 90% of the issue supports the death penalty and unlike Nebraska, we have two houses that we have to work with where in Nebraska I said they have unicameral. But I think it's a conversation to have and I believe as time goes by more republicans will realize there's reason to oppose death penalty from a fiscal standpoint from the standpoint that government is inefficient and makes mistakes and further more there is no clear consistent evidence indicating that the death penalty deters crime. Also, most republicans profess to be pro-life and I think some conservatives are wondering if being pro-life, and supporting the death penalty is consistent and so I'm going to turn it over here in a moment to Senator Cobby Coash to talk about his experience and the reasons why he opposes death penalty and he'll talk about his efforts in Nebraska, successful efforts to repeal the death penalty. And I will tell you that the Governor in Nebraskan veto the bill, so they had to override the veto. Means a lot of hard work and I'd say, no matter where you stand on this issue, Senator Coash, you have to admire his passion, his dedication for the course. Senator Coash was elected to the Nebraska state Senate in 2008. He was re-elected in 2012. He was actually the first republicans since 1972, to be elected to represent Senate District 27. He is a life long resident of Nebraska. He lives in Linton with his wife Randa and their son Cole. He graduated his university in Nebraska, right? He received his Undergrad Degree in Threater, graduate Degree in Leadership, is that correct? Okay. So. Again, I assume that later on, we are going to open a section for questions, you'll ask me do our plan of following the bill, to appeal a death penalty. The answer is, it depends on the circumstances, because as I said, the leadership supports keeping the death penalty in place and I'm not one to file a bill just to file a bill. You have to build support. If you I could get three or four republicans, son as a primary sponsor. If I could get 10 or 12 republicans as co-sponsor, and it looks that we could get some movement into something that I would strongly consider, but of course we can't file a bill until next session. So, also I want

to mention that, Senator  Coash has a nickname which is Captain Chaos. And that came about because of a professional Wrestling Bill, what would you all do? Give him a tax break or something like that. So he had to make clear on the Senate floor in the grassroots that professional wrestling is not real sport, but it's actually theater, which theater is something that he knows about but, I think Captain Chaos is an awesome nickname, and I'm kind of jealous I don't have a name like that. Let me introduce actually few other people that we have here with us today, again Senator Coash was invited here by conservatives concerned about the death penalty. We also have Mark Edwards who's Chaimam of the Nash County Republican party, to my left we have, Earnie Piasson an attorney, he is a founding member conservatives concerned about the death penalty to my right, and we also have Representative Sam Watford, a good friend of mine from Davidson County, here today and so with that I'll turn it over to Senator Coash and he'll speak for a few minutes and then we'll be glad to take up question, Senator Coash. Thank you gentlemen and that was a nice introduction. The Captain Chaos quits in a lot of different ways, one of my colleagues took my name, my name is spell Coash and in the middle of this debate When I was causing all sorts of havoc with this particular topic. He said, "If you take his name and you put the H in the second position and put the vowels you get Senator Chaos. " So, I thought Captain Chaos sounded better but that's where that came from. But I am glad to be here in North Carolina. This is my first trip here, you guys got a lot of trees, we are not used to that in Nebraska but it's a beautiful state and I've been warmly welcomed, and I thank you for having me here today. I want to share a little bit about my own personal story and the journey that we went through in Nebraska. I used to be a pretty enthusiastic supporter of the death penalty but that was in a time in my life before I was in politics, and somebody'd said "Should we have the death penalty? " And I said. " Well, yeah". Somebody does something really bad, we ought to exert justice that reflects back. And when I was in college in the 90's someone invited me down to the state penitentiary where they were having an execution. And at that time we went to the penitentiary and in the parking lot there was a party. There was a barbecue and a band and they were counting down the execution like you might countdown new years eve, and that was in 96 and that was almost the last execution that Nebraska ever saw, and it was a site that stuck with me, and I I said to myself at that time, I said this isn't the way it's supposed to be, we're not supposed to be celebrating death in this way and it stuck with me and then years later I got into the legislature and for many years I just voted for appeal and didn't worry about it. We had a conservative legislature, we still do who decided that was the way it ought to be, but then I started to be a little more critical in my study of the issue and I started to look at what I was sent there to do as a Representative of Nebraska and how that how my values as a conservative lined up with what we're debating with the death penalty and I found out that my values and the death penalty didn't align and so I started to worry towards appeal and I started to see the death penalty for what it really was. And in Nebraska as it is here in North Carolina the death penalty is a broken system, with a lot of broken promises. You have to believe in the death penalty is to trust the government is going to get it right. We had a big discussion in Nebraska about how much power do we really want to give the state? And when we think about what we want, what kind of powers we want to give our state leaders and our state government, the death penalty just tipped us over the edge that was just too much power. And in Nebraska we had a whole group of new senators who during this debate. There was this, I felt terrible for him, it was her first year in the legislature, and here we lay the death penalty and the repeal and all goes with that on him, but they had just got off the campaign trail, and they had told their constituents for a year, you send me to the capital you send

me the link and I will find, I will root out and I will get rid of any inefficient government program I can find. And when they came to the capital we showed them the death penalty and that fit the bill, if there were any other program that was as inefficient and costly as this program had been, Nebraska would have gotten rid of it along time ago, but it took us quite a while, and we got it done. I had the chance during this debate to talk with some victims, and I certainly don't want to speak for all victims that of terrible crimes, they each have their own story and each come to where they are in a very personal way I did get the opportunity to meet one victim, and her brother was killed by someone who sat on Nebraska's death row for over 20 years, and when I met with her as a supporter of the death penalty, she said Senator Coash tell me this tell me how it's justice when a judge hands down a sentence and 20 years later that sentence is not carried out, tell me how that is justice when as a victim I have to sit there for years waiting for justice to be carried out, and she said, it's not only that justice isn't being carried out. You know what happens, everytime we have a debate on this in our state, we talk think about the criminal, the crime. Nobody ever talks about the victims, and how fair is that to me as a loved one and so, if you put all that together, we decided that this was a broken program that we didn't need in our state anymore, Nebraska saw it for what it was, as a broken program and I think North Carolina has started to see that as well, across the country, people are starting to see the death penalty for what it really is. It doesn't give victims closure, it doesn't save money and it puts the focus on criminals rather than the victims who deserve our time and attention. We did some calculations in Nebraska where if we had taken even a portion of the money the way it's been, I'm trying, and I say trying because we've been unsuccessful in our state, trying to execute somebody and put some of that money just a portion of it in the victims reparation we could have dome some really good things. But I'm proud to say that I help lead the charge in Nebraska I'm happy to be here to forward this discussion in North Carolina and to give my encouragement to bold leaders like you heard before me, because it will take that bold leadership to move this forward in the state, I'm happy you pulled out the discussion and thank you for the opportunity to share my story. Thank you Senator. Mark would you like to add anything from your perspective you don't have to, but if you like to the floor is yours. Well, I was saying that I think in somebody who is active in the Republican politics so on the round level, the county Chairman is also having earlier executive committee of the state party, I know what most of you know the Republican Party is really a coalition of different groups of folks who come to the party with different interests, but I think one thing about this issue, replacing the death penalty with life imprisonment without parole, it's interesting in that it should find support really in all those coalitions that make up the Republican Party it really shouldn't, I think as this issue was discussed and we tried to push this issue forward really those that are interested with the sanctity of life, should file support in replacing the death penalty with life imprisonment without parole, those who are fiscal conservatives should support this movement, and those that are the more libertarian right should fund this as well, so I think this has great potential in North Carolina, it may take a while for it to get some movement. We think in the Republican Party there's really some sought of willing[sp?] to move this issue forward. Mr. Army would you like to add anything? My name is Army Peterson. I'm a lawyer here in town, I practice with Nexon Bureau. I've been a republican since first day I read about the color of my hair that was not yesterday. It's been a long time. I've served in hall [xx] administration, the Martin administration, I've served in every party position from Prisely, German[sp?] up to this State Executive Committee. Like many people that have come to this issue today my entire life, I thought

myself as a very stern law and order person. And I'm. I believe a person that commits a crime ought to and I was a supporter of the death penalty up until about a year and a half ago, my story is a little different though you've heard good arguments on why it's not good governance, that's not cost effective. Frankly, if you look at the innocent commission, God help we could have killed a lot of innocent people in the death chamber, but I come to it from a matter fact that the christian, I started thinking about this and praying on it about a year and a half ago and after discussion with my ministry they we're absolutely quite conservative themselves, I simply could have come to a conclusion that we do not have the right as a human beings I don't care whether you are sitting on a jury, I don't care whether you are wearing a robe, I don't care what your position is, we do not have the right to take away a life and take God's opportunity to redeem one of his children, it's that simple. If we stand for right to life and believe that an unborn infant is entitled to an opportunity to breathe the first breathe and to become all they can be. We do not have the right to take away a persons life. If there's any chance that God can redeem them and there's always a chance. I guess a part of my coming to this position is I've led a bible study in prison for about 16 years. I've seen very, very long term criminals make a very sincere change in there life. It's evidence by the fact that the belong term bible study in prison have only 15% [xx], whereas those that don't have about 95%. So, mine is a matter of faith, I simply believe I cannot as a christian support the death penalty anymore and that's why I was happy to become a member of conservatives against the death penalty very commons sense alternative which is like in prison without parole, which is not pleasant by the way so it is a punishment I still consider myself a very strong, law and order person but I believe that there's another way to punish people appropriately for these crimes that might lead to the death penalty and [xx]. Thank you   [xx] we'll be glad to open up for questions. Yes sir. Representative [xx], it listening to what you're saying it sounds as though this is very far off in North Carolina, you had mentioned that you at this point needed even get the law here need to get two or three Republicans to sign on to the Bill sponsor for this. I guess how do you get that process started since we're at this point you're talking about getting a [xx] but there's that big gap and I don't know if it's Coash[sp?] you want to weigh in on your words of wisdom of how things got started, and gains and progress in Nebraska Well it has to start somewhere and so it's about the conversation and having that conversation and that's what the Senators are doing here today as I said before, I'm not going to follow a bill just for the sake of following a bill but if we can have conversations over the next few months or the next couple of years and bring in Republicans who feel the same way as we do about this issue. I think we could get somewhere. And but it's a process, and I'm a realistic individual. I'm not going to look at this and say, oh we can get this done next year, but you've got to start somewhere, and I think it starts with the conversation. A lot of it is at the grassroots level, where we can go back home, if there are any Republican members of the legislature who support we can go back home to our respective districts and talk about it, we can maybe get support from the local Republican Party in like Mark and Ashe County and so if you started with grassroots level and build up from there, had that conversation it buids everytime, we can get to the point that's going to happen, Senator. people said Nebraska would be the last state that would do what we did and it started many years ago in a similar place that is starting here which is as representative Hardister said with the conversation. And what needs to happen is we need to start to change the narrative. When I first started down this path I probably went to, whatever you want to say the average Nebraskan was, and said. Do you support the death penalty? The answer was. Oh yeah I support the death penalty and if you take it further and if you have to take

it further and that's saying, do you still support it knowing how much money it cost? Do you still supported knowing that there is a chance that somebody could be executed erroneously? Do you still support it knowing that we can't do it in a transparent way. And when we furthered that conversation in Nebraska, Republicans in our state started to change their their mind, and they started to see it as we saw it in our state and so, it does start here and that's why I'm glad to be part of this this discussion. Anyone else? Any other questions? Yes Sir. Drew [xx] from [xx] and this is for both [xx] senator, when you repealed in Nebraska, was it a clean repeal or was it paired with maybe some toughening up measures on the criminal justice side and Representative Hardister how do you see that playing out in [xx]  In Nebraska it was a stand alone our bill, I have to tell you, marching down the track at the same time this bill was, we were doing a pretty significant criminal justice change in our state because we have a real problem with overcrowding in our prison in Nebraska, we're running out of square footage to put inmates. However, what I would tell you is this were very separate issues. Including the death penalty was not part of bigger plan and criminal justice reform it was just, we tend to chip away government inefficiency in our state and we got to the critical mass where the death penalty was that next chip. So, here's an inefficient program, let's get rid of it. We've been doing that for many years we had pretty expansive growing of government in the last decade, and we started to chip that away in our state, and the death penalty was just part of that, but it ruined one part a broader picture. Yea, I agree with that. I think it's so early and it's far to say how we would get started in North Carolina, but again it goes back to starting the conversation and as senator said changing the narrative and having republicans looking at this from a critical standpoint from a practical standpoint, do we believe in efficient government? Are we physically conservative? Do we believe in pro-life? Do we have concerns that the Government could make mistakes. If the wrong person could be convicted, the wrong person could be executed. Are we concerned about botched executions which I think are violation of protection against an unusual punishment. So, you change the narrative, you talk about it, and you try to separate the emotion from it, and look at the practical reality of where we are as a Republican party, and where we stand in terms of Government efficiency, being physically conservative, and whether or not we trust the Government to carry out capital punishment. So anyone else? Yes sir. Mr. Coash in Nebraska what was the vote I guess the first time around, and when did you reveal it? And then, is anybody trying to bring it back now as we speak? Right, so our session ended, we had a similar to North Carolina long, and a short session. This was our long session which ended at the beginning of June, and so we passed this Bill in May and we went through three rounds of debate, including an override of the governor's veto. With 49 senators, it take 25 votes to pass the bill, takes 33 to get through a filibuster which we did get through and 30 to overwrite the Governor's speech and we passed it with votes, so we had zero room for anybody switching, and we did have some because of their own reasons as switch their vote, but we did pass it, over the governors veto. Everybody that was there this year will be there next year, so I don't see any legislative effort to change it, there's some effort in Nebraska to reverse it on referendum, but that is yet to be seen what will happen with that but we feel comfortable that people spoke through us as their Representatives. We feel that I guess I feel confident that not one member of either party who voted for repeal is going to face the consequences of that. As long as we continue to tell our story which is what we're doing in our state. Yes Ma'am. There's a couple of [inaudible] one is that [inaudible] last year there was is there an effort to tighten the death penalty in North Carolina to spend an effort to overcome some of the issues with medications. Are you having conversations with those folks? Are you starting more with the folks who might be a little moderate on this? How are you proceeding? I'm having conversations with just about anybody.

I have had conversations with several members of the house members of the senate, I don't want to mention anyone by name, but I believe there are several other Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly today who are either against the death penalty or are open to supporting repeal, so I'm just starting at the grassroots level I'm working with constituents back home, with the Republican party in Guildford county to start that conversation. And as I said before, I think if you're a legislator of North Carolina, you need to go back home and talk to your constituents about it. If you're favor of appeal, you might want to write it on paper about, you might want to try to get on the television get on the radio, make your voice heard, you might want to ask for press conference. So it's just about the conversation and by my own confident like the senator said, I think public opinion is changing on this, and I think that particularly within the Republican Party for the reasons that we've laid out I think you're going to see overtime, a shift in opinion on the death penalty. But it's not going to happen overnight, it will take time but I think we're moving in that direction. Follow up? Is this here with another expense that began last year there was an effort to raise the age for charging juvenile [xx] of anything, or are you just sort of focusing on this? Just focusing on this. Yeah. I mean, it's too early to tell how we would proceed in terms of writing a bill, cause, at this point and time, I have had no discussion with staff about actually writing bill, that's something that would happen much later. Like I said, I wouldn't want to lead a [xx] on that. I believe at this point and time, the leadership in the house of senate are in favor of the death penalties. I don't think they are going to move off of that position, and I respect their position. But from that taken out into consideration. The reality is, it will be very hard to move a bill today, but if we do decide to processed with legislation that involves, from my stand point of when to work with other republicans. I mean, this would be a by-parts and effort. But the issue doesn't really break down 100% on party lines, there are plenty of democrats who support the death penalty. So, again, it's having a conversation and I think republicans have to reflect on the issue and look at it and think about it critically, but, I don't want to speak everybody, I believe there are other republican members of the general assembly who feel the same way and may be willing to take this issue on, but because we have a republican majority, because I think there are logical reason why a republican should oppose a death penalty, if you can have three or four primary sponsors who are republicans, if you can get maybe 10 or 12 co-sponsors and that may be just enough to justify filing a bill and trying to see if we can get some movement, at least get a hearing on it, but right now it's too early to tell. Yes Sir. There was a bill in session to reveal the death penalty and replace it will life without parole. I think primarily [xx] on that bill. Why didn't you sign onto that? Why didn't you use that as a conversation point? I didn't feel like the time is right, if you were to consider my explanation just a moment ago, I feel like the ground work wasn't laid on and I'd want to lay some ground work, and arguably that starts today with this press conference from my stand point. At that point in time it was a democratic bill and there were no republicans who were assigned on to it and I knew that it virtually had no chance of going anywhere and as I said I'm not one who follows a bill to follow a bill or sign on a bill just for the sake of doing it. I want to actually try to get something done, so if I fell like there is enough republican support and pressure behind us to move it forward then I think when we get to that point, the time will be right, but the time just wasn't right this session because it was a democratic bill and we have a republican majority and we have a republican leadership supports the death penalty and the ground work wasn't there and therefore I didn't think the time was right. Anybody else. You talked about efficiency and inefficiency in the death penalty their has been an analysis which is more expensive than incarcerating someone [xx] [xx] I can tell you nation wide that the evidence is pretty clear. The federal government and most state government put a lot of protection in when you

go through death penalty case as there should be because you want to make sure you do it right and it is those extra protections that cost the extra expense. In Nebraska one of our last death penalty cases was prosecuted in the county, and that county had to put leans on their road graders and snow piles in order to pay for the prosecution of one of the guys who ended up sitting on that row for over 20 years and never did get executed, died of natural causes and so I think every state probably a little different, I can say in Nebraska they have in us pretty clear that if we could just I've got no love for the people who sit on death row, they did some terrible things and that's why I put them away not talk about them not think about them and take that money that we save and maybe do something for the victims.  Yeah and there have been several studies done about the cause of death penalty, I believe Duke University's done a study. Was it Cook that did the study? But it's enormous cause and I have a call several years ago when I was Political Science major in college we had a debate class and I was supportive of death penalty and so I took the side of supporting it, and I found that my arguments didn't really hold up as strong as I thought they would, but I still walked away supporting the death penalty just thinking Ron that was just a college debate, but I went to I read a couple of books, I did some research, I had numerous conversations with friends, and I found out that there're some prominent well known Republicans who oppose the Death Penalty. One is Colonel Oliver North and so I read what he said, and what some of the others were saying about it, and I took it to heart, and I thought about it, reflected on it, and looked at some of these studies indicating that the death penalty costs a lot of money to carry out cause it really doesn't make sense when you say it's more expensive to execute somebody but all the litigation it is very expensive, but my biggest hold up with the death penalty, my major concern is your honour there're several reasons, the financial cost are certainly one but I just don't trust the government, I don't trust the government to do it right. If someone's wrongfully executed, I mean you can't bring that person back, if they're serving life in prison without parole, I think that's punishment. I think that's real punishment, you have your freedom taken away, but if it's determined the government made a mistake you can bring that person and botched executions are terrible, I mean that is an injustice, that's a violation of protection against cruel and unusual punishment at least in my opinion. So then again the pro-life issue as well I think plays into it and so again I think it's all about the conversion that we're having and we'll see where this goes in the future, I want to publicly thank Senator Coash for being here and for taking his time to share his story and conservatives concerned about death penalty for helping put this together and we'll continue to work on and I appreciate the media, they're covering this I was going to announce I was running for president today, but I found out I'm not old enough so I'll talk about death penalty instead. No I'm just kidding. So do we have, we probably need to wrap this up relatively soon but we could take another question or two if you have any. And that's it, okay, thank you very much, appreciated.