racial justice act

The verdict is in: Race still decides juries in N.C.

The Racial Justice Act went to the Supreme Court this week. Now, the state’s highest court must decide how North Carolina should deal with troubling revelations of racial bias in capital trials.

The oral arguments Monday were about four defendants who have been resentenced to life in prison without parole after a Superior Court judge found “a wealth of evidence showing the persistent, pervasive, and distorting role of race in jury selection throughout North Carolina,” as well as in their individual cases.

However, the larger issue is this: As a result of the Racial Justice Act, a comprehensive study found that African-Americans are being systematically denied the right to serve on capital juries. A qualified black juror in North Carolina is more than twice as likely as a white juror to be removed with a peremptory strike.

What will McCrory do about legislation to repeal the Racial Justice Act?

Shameless

It's no secret that the Republican party in North Carolina is fundamentally racist and misogynist. This inescapable conclusion can be drawn not by looking into their hearts and minds, but by examining their actions and choices. Christianists like Skip Stam and Phil Berger have spent their political careers trying to subvert the rights of black people and women to receive equal treatment before the law.

Moral tap dancing to an immoral tune:

We've seen some low points in North Carolina General Assembly moral leadership since it fell under the control of the far right faction of the GOP, but we truly hit a new low last week when 67 Republican and five Democratic members of the NC House went on record as saying it is okay for the color of a person's skin to determine whether they live or die.

State house passes bill to gut Racial Justice Act. Tell the state senate not to follow suit.

Late Wednesday, the state house passed a bill that essentially guts the Racial Justice Act. This monstrosity passed with a 72-47 margin after five conservative Democrats defected--enough to override a veto. Apparently the Democrats were assured by provisions that supposedly protect against racial bias, even though the proposed bill would make it all but impossible to use the kind of statistical evidence that allowed Marcus Robinson to get his sentence commuted to life earlier this year.

The bill now goes to the state senate, which passed a similar repeal attempt last fall by a veto-proof margin. But there's still time to head this off at the pass. Tell the state senate to let the Racial Justice Act stand.

Judge throws out death sentence in first Racial Justice Act appeal

Earlier this morning, Cumberland County Superior Court Judge Greg Weeks issued a potentially landmark ruling in the first-ever appeal of a death sentence under the Racial Justice Act. Weeks ruled that prosecutors in Cumberland County deliberately kept blacks off the jury in Robinson's 1994 trial.

Robinson relied heavily on a study by Michigan State that found a 20-year pattern of blacks being excluded from juries more than potential jurors of other races. Specific to his case, blacks were excluded 3.5 times more than whites.

Read Weeks' ruling here.

Race and death

An excellent editorial in the New York Times, confirming the pattern of national embarrassments for our Republican "leaders."

This bias is not news in North Carolina. Since colonial times into recent decades, racial prejudice has been a huge factor in the imposition of death sentences in the state. The Racial Justice Act, a response to that terrible history, uses statistical studies in regulating the death penalty, as the Supreme Court said legislatures could properly do in a 1987 case. Opponents of the law are battling to repeal it and have scheduled a hearing on it this week. The evidence of gross racial bias presented in Mr. Robinson’s case calls for commuting his sentence — but also for abolishing the death penalty in North Carolina.

Standoff on Jones Street

Sneaker Tillis is holding North Carolina hostage because he doesn't have the votes to override the governor's veto of the Racial Justice Act. Governor Perdue should learn the same lesson Barack Obama has learned from his many failed attempts to compromise with crazy. She should tell Thom Tillis to go f/ck himself.

Save the Racial Justice Act

It has been a little over a week since the North Carolina General Assembly voted to repeal the Racial Justice Act, a landmark piece of legislation which enabled death row inmates to challenge their sentences by showing patterns of racial discrimination in the jurisdictions where they were tried.

Since then, Republican lawmakers have been accused of ignoring undisputed evidence of racial bias in the administration of the death penalty and abusing the legislative system to sneak through legislation without public oversight.

Groups including the NC-NAACP have called on Governor Beverly Perdue to veto the bill, but there has been no word from her office as of this writing. Under North Carolina law, Governor Perdue has 30 days to issue a veto. The Governor has indicated that she will make her decision next week.

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