Ernest Paul McCarver
Execution stayed by U.S. Supreme Court on March 1, 2001
The U.S. Supreme Court has announced that it will use Ernest's case to rule on whether it is violation of the 8th amendment's ban against cruel and unusual punishment to execute mentally retarded inmates. The court will hear oral arguments in the fall, and make a ruling in early 2002. McCarver's case will likely be sent back to a lower court to determine whether he fits the court's guidelines for mental retardation.
Alert from People of Faith Against the Death Penalty
Despite calls from North Carolina citizens and legislators for a moratorium on executions, the state has scheduled the execution of Ernest Paul McCarver for March 2, 2001 at 2 a.m. Convicted and sentenced to death for the 1987 robbery and murder of Cabarrus County restaurateur Woodrow Hartley, McCarver has the functioning of a child. McCarver was recently determined to have an IQ of 67.
McCarver's execution date was set the same day the N.C. General Assembly came back into session. In his address to the Assembly, Speaker of the House Jim Black said that the legislature will consider a moratorium on executions this session. Support for a moratorium has grown in the two years as questions have been raised about the fairness of the death penalty. Last fall, a legislative research commission recommended a moratorium pending further study of the state's system of capital punishment. On January 18, the N.C. Bar Association's Board of Governors recommended a suspension of executions and significant death penalty reform. On February 20, Thomasville became the 13th governmental body in North Carolina to endorse a moratorium. Polls show support for a moratorium among North Carolinians to be around 63
Several factors weigh in favor of commutation of McCarver's death sentence to life imprisonment without parole:
North Carolina law forbids the execution of children. The jury found that McCarver's intellectual functioning is that of a ten to twelve-year-old. His reading comprehension is that of a seven-and-a-half-year-old. He processes information the same way an eight or ten-year-old child would. State law prohibits the execution of anyone under the age of 17.
McCarver is not dangerous. McCarver had no record of prior violence. The jury found that he had a history of passivity and nonviolence and that McCarver does well in the structured setting of prison.
McCarver experienced a horrific childhood. His parents forced him to participate in burglaries. McCarver was the victim of severe economic deprivation. After his parents were sent to prison and McCarver came to live with his grandmother, he often did not have enough clothes to wear or food to eat. McCarver was placed in a foster home at a young age and was later sent to an orphanage. On numerous occasions when he was a child, McCarver was sexually molested by older men. The jury found that McCarver's history of childhood abuse and his low intellect played a role in the crime.
McCarver has accepted responsibility for his actions. The jury found that he had cooperated with law enforcement authorities and confessed.
Had the jury been properly instructed, McCarver would have received a life sentence. While the jury was deciding between life imprisonment or death, they reported that they were deadlocked. The judge told them to continue deliberating. After deliberating for more than nine hours, the jury sentenced McCarver to death. Because of the trial judge's improper instructions, two justices of the N.C. Supreme Court voted to throw out McCarver's death sentence.
Biographical Sketch of Ernest McCarver
Ernest was born on June 16, 1960. At the age of two, Ernest's parents were sent to prison for stealing. Ernest and his older brother Lee were sent temporarily to a foster home. When Ernest's parents were released, they returned to a life of crime. They took Ernest and Lee with them to commit burglaries. The parents put the young boys, then aged three and four, through the windows of various homes and told them what to steal. The parents preferred to use Ernest because he was smaller.
Lee recalls that when he was six and Ernest was five, Lee was essentially a father to Ernest. Lee also remembers that his father used to tell him that he had only one son--Lee. The father told Lee that Ernest was a mistake.
Ernest and his brother later went to live with his grandmother in her one-bedroom apartment. The grandmother was impoverished and in poor health. There was not enough money for clothes or food. The grandmother was not well enough to provide guidance and supervision. The boys turned to the streets and to stealing in order to survive. Often men forced Ernest to perform oral sex on them.
For a number of years while living with his grandmother, Ernest had no contact with his father. He saw his mother only two or three times for about 20 minutes each time. These meetings took place at the local social services office.
Ernest was sickly and missed a lot of school. Consequently, he had problems learning in school, and his grandmother sent him and Lee to an orphanage when Ernest was twelve years old. The boys were separated shortly after they reached the orphanage. The grandmother had no way to get to the orphanage and visited only rarely.
Staff at the orphanage diagnosed Ernest with dysthymia, or depression. His depression was so severe that he began receiving mental health treatment immediately upon entering the orphanage. Ernest did not understand what was wrong with him that his parents did not want him or take care of him.
At the orphanage, Ernest was physically and sexually abused. When Lee was 16 and Ernest was 15, the father took Lee out of the orphanage and home to live with him. He left Ernest at the orphanage, claiming that he was not Ernest's father. Ernest later joined them. The father again forced his sons to assist him in burglaries. However, shortly after Ernest came to live with them, the father was sent back to prison. The two brothers continued to live together and Lee again assumed parental responsibility for Ernest.
Ernest was sent to prison in 1984 for writing bad checks.
Shortly before the capital offense, at the age of 26, Ernest fathered a daughter. When Ernest learned that his girlfriend was pregnant, he was happy about the prospect of starting a family. Looking forward to the birth of his child caused Ernest to have hope for the first time in his life. However, the girlfriend broke up with him and married another man. Ernest was devastated by the break up.
The offense occurred in January of 1987, a few days after Ernest's girlfriend left him. Ernest was tried in 1988. His mother refused to attend the trial. Lee testified that he did not know where their father was. Lee also told the jury, "We didn't have parents."
For more information on what you can do to protest this execution contact People of Faith Against the Death Penalty, (919) 933-7567.