Justice: Handling a Deadly Issue

She is a portly grandmother whose born-again piety has won over some of her toughest fellow inmates. She is also a convicted killer, sentenced to death row six years ago for killing her fiancé with arsenic. Margie Velma Barfield, 51, a onetime private nurse, also confessed to poisoning her mother and two elderly patients in her care. When North Carolina's Democratic Governor James Hunt, who is challenging conservative Republican Jesse Helms for his Senate seat, rejected Barfield's plea for clemency last week, his decision added emotionally charged elements to an already close, tense race.

Though Hunt, like his opponent and...

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