Clifton Allen White

Executed August 24, 2001 by Lethal Injection in North Carolina

45th murderer executed in U.S. in 2001
728th murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
2nd murderer executed in North Carolina in 2001
18th murderer executed in North Carolina since 1976

Since 1976
Date of Execution
(Race/Sex/Age at Murder-Execution)
Date of
(Race/Sex/Age at Murder)
Date of
Method of
to Murderer
Date of
Lethal Injection
Clifton Allen White

W / M / 30 - 43

Kimberly Ewing

W / F / 28

with knife

In 1989, after a four-day cocaine binge, White broke into the Charlotte home of 28-year-old Kimberly Ewing, a roommate of an acquaintance he was seeing. When Ewing returned home, she was confronted by White, who tied her up with an electrical cord, struck her in the head with a fireplace shovel, sexually assaulted her, stabbed her in the back of the neck and repeatedly slashed her throat. He took the victim's money and some of her possessions, traded them for cocaine, and drove her car to Florida, where he was arrested. A full confession followed. White's first death sentence was reversed in June 1992 based upon evidence that he had committed a similar sexual assaults upon other victims. He was again tried, convicted, and sentenced to death in 1994.


White v. North Carolina, 122 S.Ct. 11 (2001) (Stay).
White v. North Carolina, 122 S.Ct. 11 (2001) (Stay).
White v. Easley, 122 S.Ct. 12 (2001) (Stay).
White v. Lee, 121 S.Ct. 2566 (2001) (Cert. Denied).
White v. Easley, 553 S.E.2d 399 (N.C. 2001) (Cert. Denied).
State v. White, 553 S.E.2d 397 (N.C. 2001) (Cert. Denied).
State v. White, 553 S.E.2d 211 (N.C. 2001) (State Habeas).
State v. White, 525 S.E.2d 465 (N.C. 1998) (Cert. Denied).
White v. Lee, 238 F.3d 418 (Table) (4th Cir. 2000) (Habeas).
White v. North Carolina, 117 S.Ct. 314 (1996) (Cert. Denied).
State v. White, 471 S.E.2d 593 (N.C. 1996) (Direct Appeal).
State v. White, 419 S.E.2d 557 (N.C. 1992) (Direct Appeal).

Internet Sources:

North Carolina Department of Correction


Clifton White was sentenced to death on February 4, 1994 for the 1989 stabbing death of Kimberly Ewing. Prosecutors said he slipped into Kimberly's house on Plainview Road in Charlotte and waited for her in the dark. Then he ambushed her, striking her with a fireplace shovel. Kimberly was the young mother of a 7-year-old. The 28-year-old Charlotte woman was tied up, sexually assaulted and her throat was slashed six times with a paring knife. His attorneys said White was under the influence of alcohol and cocaine at the time of the murder and that he should be given life without parole because he was abused as a child and battled a drug addiction as an adult. "Those things had an effect on him." He was also sentenced to 120 years in prison for robbery with a dangerous weapon, burglary and kidnapping and ten years for auto larceny.

People of Faith Against the Death Penalty

Action Alert from People of Faith Against the Death Penalty - Background on Clifton White, Scheduled for Execution in North Carolina, 2 a.m. Friday, August 24

Clifton Allen White is scheduled to be executed by the State of North Carolina on August 24, 2001. White was abused as a child and has a long history of family substance abuse, which led to his own drug addiction. White was convicted of the 1989 murder of Kimberly Ewing in Charlotte. What makes this an even greater tragedy is that it may have been preventable. His case deserves further consideration for several reasons:

This crime could and should have been prevented. In the months prior to the murder, White's sister noticed a significant change in her brother's behavior. He was using more and more cocaine and acting out-of-control for the first time in his life. She tried to get both the police and his probation officer to intervene before it was too late. Despite sufficient grounds for both the police and probation officer to take steps that would have incapacitated White, her pleas were ignored. Only when Kimberly Ewing was found dead did anyone take her warnings seriously.

White received inadequate treatment for his drug addiction. White was a drug addict for most of his adult life, and when he had been in prison for an earlier offense his drug addiction was clear, yet he was never given access to an adequate drug addiction treatment program. The professionals who treated White for hypothyroidism were aware of his drug use, and were aware of the potentially explosive combination of drug use and hypothyroidism, yet White was kept in the dark about the increased risks his conditions entailed.

Prior to a traumatic incident in prison, Clifton had never committed an act of violence. While in prison in North Carolina for an earlier offense, Clifton White was raped. Clifton calls this trauma a "scar that will never heal." This final act of violence and terror was the last straw. Clifton's drug dependence skyrocketed and he followed along the path his horrific childhood had led him—straight to death row.

The jury was misled about White’s parole eligibility. . After hearing about his successful behavior in prison, the jury asked the judge whether White would be eligible for parole if he received a life sentence. Only after failing to get real assurances that White would spend the rest of his life in prison did the jury recommend the death sentence.

White's death sentence is disproportionate when compared to other murder cases in Charlotte. In many cases as bad as, or worse than White's, the Mecklenburg County District Attorney's Office has not sought the death penalty, or has been willing to accept a plea to a lesser charge. That White is facing execution, while others who committed similar crimes are not, is arbitrary and unfair.

If given life without parole, White would not be a threat to anyone. White has never committed a violent act while incarcerated. Prison officials believe that in the structured environment of prison, White is both useful to the prison system and not a problem to its authorities.

White has consistently shown remorse. He has accepted responsibility for the death of Kimberly Ewing and demonstrated sincere remorse for his actions.

National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty

Clifton Allen White - Scheduled Execution: 8/24/01, 2:00am EST.

Like many substance abusers, Clifton White had lost control. Yet, unlike many other addicts who are alone when their behavior unravels and the habit consumes more and more of their thoughts and actions, Clifton White had someone who intervened for him. His sister noticed that his lifestyle and actions had become progressively unmanageable as his use of cocaine increased. She notified the authorities, hoping that police and probation officials would remove Clifton from his current environment and perhaps save him from future harm. Her pleas, however, fell on deaf and inattentive ears, and her volatile brother was soon to become a convicted murderer, and a death row inmate.

Clifton White has never denied his actions. It is certain that he is the murderer of Kimberly Ewing, one of Mr. White’s very own friends. He has consistently expressed his remorse, and accepted responsibility, going so far as to say that he should be locked up forever.

Yet the circumstances surrounding Mr. White’s actions certainly do not qualify a sentence of death as taking “full accountability” for the murder of Kimberly Ewing. Full accountability would certainly incorporate the totality of Mr. White’s condition at the time of his actions. That totality involved drugs, a prison rape, and childhood of pain and trauma.

He had indeed become extremely addicted to cocaine and admits to being heavily influenced by drugs at the time of the murder. He was deeply affected by his own rape, which occurred when inside a detention facility in North Carolina. However his drug use and fragmented state of mind was the result of influences that occurred much closer to home. Clifton White’s childhood was marred by physical and emotional abuse in the household. The awful ordeal of family life became even more impossible when his father repeatedly threatened to committ suicide in front of Clifton.

Clifton White’s execution date has been confirmed for August 24th. His chances at clemency are now tied up in the hands of the North Carolina Courts and the Governor, Michael Easley, whose very ability to grant clemency is now at issue. For North Carolina to execute Mr. White, without a clear and emphatic understanding of his clemency options, is unlawful and unjust, and, furthermore, to fail to consider his past and his deep remorse, cruel and unfair.

Please do not let North Carolina expedite the killing of Clifton Allen White. As prison officials have mentioned time and time again, Clifton White is a benign prisoner, not prone to violence or disobedience. Contact Governor Easley to voice your opposition to this travesty of the justice system.

Rick Halperin (Urgent Action Appeal)

Date: Thu Aug 2, 2001 5:23 pm - USA (North Carolina) Clifton Allen White.

Clifton White is scheduled to be executed in North Carolina on 24 August 2001. He was sentenced to death for the 1989 murder of Kimberly Ewing.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases. Every death sentence is an affront to human dignity; every execution is a symptom of, not a solution to, a culture of violence. Killing prisoners offers no constructive contribution to society's efforts to combat violent crime.

Like many condemned inmates in the USA, Clifton White was exposed to violence and abuse from an early age. His mother, who was alcoholic, used to beat him with belts and brooms. He was also beaten by other adult relatives. His father was a suicidal drug addict, who used to steal to support his addiction. On one occasion, Clifton White was present when his father threatened to shoot himself, putting a loaded gun to his head. When Clifton White was six, he witnessed his uncle beating his mother. His grandfather shot the uncle in both knees to make him stop the beating.

Clifton White began to use drugs and alcohol, and to steal in order to support his habit. In his early 20's he was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, a condition which requires medication. He was in prison for burglary at the time, and was given the appropriate treatment. However, he was reportedly not properly advised of the need to continue taking the medication and, upon his release, he stopped taking it. He began self-medicating with cocaine, drug use that was apparently also fuelled by the trauma he had suffered in prison at the hands of an inmate who raped him.

In the months before Kimberly Ewing was killed, Clifton White's sister realized that her brother was losing control, and might be a risk to himself or others. She repeatedly contacted his probation officer, as well as a mental health centre and a magistrate, to ask for help. Finally, the probation officer tried to find a drug rehabilitation program after meeting White, but nothing was available. Two weeks after the meeting with the probation officer, Clifton White killed his acquaintance Kimberly Ewing in what he described at trial as a crime committed in 'a frenzy and a passion and in a drug-induced, alcohol- induced kind of fury'.

Shortly after the murder, Clifton White was arrested in Florida on an unrelated charge of breaking and entering. He voluntarily told the police that he had 'something to tell you that's driving me crazy', and he confessed to the murder. His remorse is said to be evident on the taped confession. Others have said that he has been remorseful through the 12 years since the murder. He is reported to have been a model inmate on death row, and to have committed no acts of violence.

Clifton White said at his trial: 'I accept responsibility. It is my fault that there is a mother and father that don't have their daughter. I accept full responsibility. It was because of me.' He expressed his remorse: 'I feel bad. I feel bad because it is my fault. This mother and father don't have a daughter and it is my fault. It bothers me just to think about it. It is something that never leaves my mind. It will be with me for the rest of my life.'

Executions in North Carolina have been put on hold recently while the state Supreme Court considers the claim that Governor Mike Easley cannot be an impartial arbiter of clemency petitions because, in his previous role as Attorney General, he had fought the appeals of scores of condemned inmates who challenged their death sentences. Prior to being Attorney General, he was a prosecutor who sought the death penalty.

The Court has not yet ruled on the case. The next rulings by the Court are due on 17 August, although it is not known if the decision on this issue will be handed down then. If the Court does rule on 17 August, and rules against the state, the execution of Clifton White and others would be stayed. If it disagrees that the governor has a conflict of interest, the way would be cleared for executions to go ahead.

Since the USA resumed executions in 1977, 725 men and women have been put to death in 31 states. North Carolina accounts for 17 of these executions.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible, in your own words: - expressing sympathy for the family of Kimberly Ewing; - expressing opposition to the death penalty as a symptom of a culture of violence, which offers no constructive contribution to society's efforts to combat violent crime; - noting Clifton White's sister's repeated but unsuccessful attempts to obtain help for her brother before he harmed himself or others; - noting Clifton White's remorse, his model behaviour in prison, and his abusive upbringing - urging the Governor to offer leadership, and to commute Clifton White's death sentence in order to break the cycle of violence in this case.

The Independent Weekly

Clifton White agrees with those who say that his was a heinous crime. In 1989, after a four-day cocaine binge, he robbed the Charlotte home of 28-year-old Kimberly Ewing, an acquaintance he was staying with. Confronted by Ewing, White tied her up, stabbed her in the back of the neck and repeatedly slashed her throat. The murder was so horrific, White says, that although he remembers part of what happened that night, he still has a hard time believing he could have been so brutal.

"He don't understand it himself, he don't know what it was," says his wife, Barbara White. "He has searched his heart for years. I've watched him cry, I've listened to him cry on the phone: 'I don't know why this happened.'" Likewise, people who know White say it's difficult to understand how the man scheduled for execution at 2 a.m. Friday could do such a thing.

"The first time I went to see him, I was terrified," says John Johnson, a UNC-Chapel Hill student who heads the campus branch of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty and has befriended White during about 30 visits to death row. "Then he started cracking jokes and he put me at ease." Johnson says White spends his spare time drawing and coloring, reading, listening to bluegrass and country music, and joshing with prison guards and fellow inmates. White's friends describe him as personable and jovial, more like a class clown than a hardened criminal. But his upbringing put him on a tragic course. Teresa Hunt, one of White's two sisters, says that their childhood was steeped in depravation and violence. Their father was addicted to opiate pills and was frequently suicidal, she says, and their mother was an alcoholic who hit them on a regular basis. Often they fell into the care of grandparents who were emotionally and physically abusive. Once, Hunt says, the White children witnessed a terrible melee, in which their uncle severely beat their mother, and a grandfather stepped in and shot the uncle.

"He was always told, 'You're nothing, you're never going to amount to nothing,'" Hunt says of her brother. "You hear that long enough, and you believe it." In his teens and 20s, White turned to a life of petty theft, and spent much of his time either in prison or on probation. Still, he kept up a sunny disposition. He helped his sister raise her children, and was always gentle and caring with them, Hunt says. According to White's friends, he was happiest when he went out dancing.

White's wife, Barbara, had dated him before the murder and married him in 1990, after he was behind bars. She does not deny the obscene cruelty of his crime, but she says the murder was a tragic aberration for the fundamentally compassionate man she knows. "He was never violent toward me and I never saw him be violent against anyone," she says. "He never raised his hand to hit me. Whenever there was a fight, he walked away."

White confessed to his crime, and has expressed shock and sorrow for it ever since. Ewing had a young daughter when she was killed. According to Hunt, her brother "has been remorseful since day one, and he cannot get over the fact that he took a mother away from a child, that this little girl had to grow up without a mother." White says he's haunted by what he did. "He's told me many a time that when he closes his eyes, he sees [Ewing's] face, and when he wakes up, he sees her face," says Barbara White.

One of White's attorneys, Jonathan Broun of the Center for Death Penalty Litigation in Durham, emphasizes that White is "not a monster"--that he's conscious of the wrong he's done and sorry for it. Moreover, as his lawyers argued in a clemency petition to Gov. Mike Easley last week, White turned to violence after society failed him--failed to protect him as a child, and failed to provide the help he clearly needed as an adult. "We're not solving these problems by executing him," Broun says. "There are legal reasons, and public policy reasons, to spare his life," Johnson says, "but the biggest reason is the man himself."

During his 1994 murder trial, White testified that "I don't deserve to live after what I done." But now, his wife says, he believes it's better for the state to let him live out his days in prison than to kill him. "I know the real Clifton, I know the loving man that he is," Barbara White says. "He's not an animal, and he's not one of those one of these prisoners sitting in jail that has nobody. I want people out there to realize that Clifton is loved deeply."