The recent killings of four workers at an eastern N.C. prison have prompted the legislature’s top two officers to call for the return of capital punishment in North Carolina.

Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, and House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, issued a joint news release Friday afternoon calling on Gov. Roy Cooper and state Attorney General Josh Stein “to restart the death penalty in North Carolina.”

“For over a decade, death penalty opponents like Roy Cooper and Josh Stein have imposed a de facto moratorium on capital punishment in North Carolina, using every legal trick possible — including inaction – to delay death sentences handed down by juries and deny justice to victims,” said Berger. “No matter what they say, Cooper’s and Stein’s indifference and failure to fight the moratorium endangers the lives of prison employees in close proximity to hardened murderers with nothing left to lose, who see no possibility they will face execution for killing again.”

The request from Berger and Moore followed Wednesday’s news that Pasquotank County District Attorney Andrew Womble would seek the death penalty against four inmates charged with first-degree murder. Each defendant is charged in the October killings of three state correctional officers and a manager of a prison rehabilitative work program.

Those killings took place as inmates attempted escape from Pasquotank Correctional Institute. Their attacks with scissors and hammers injured eight other prison employees.

“In light of the prosecutor’s decision to pursue the death penalty, Governor Roy Cooper and Attorney General Josh Stein need to make certain, should a jury sentence these men to death, that those sentences are carried out,” said Moore.

North Carolina has 143 inmates living on death row. The state has conducted no executions since 2006.