Racial Justice Act

A picture of the US Supreme Court building.
Daderot / Wikipedia

  

The Racial Justice Act of 2009 allowed defendants in North Carolina to appeal their death sentences if they could show racial bias was a factor in their trials.

It was the only law in the country that retroactively applied to capital cases. And it let inmates use court statistics to prove their arguments, rather than having to prove prosecutors intended to be prejudiced.

But under pressure from dozens of district attorneys who said the law was unnecessarily delaying capital cases, the North Carolina General Assembly repealed the Racial Justice Act in 2013.

Picture of gavel
Flickr.com

Monday afternoon, the state Supreme Court heard the cases of four former death row prisoners whose sentences were commuted to life in prison under the Racial Justice Act.

State lawmakers repealed the Racial Justice Act last year. That act allowed death row inmates to use statistical evidence of racial bias to challenge their sentences. The cases heard today are still pending.

Attorney Danielle Elder represented the state in court this morning. She and other prosecutors argue that a previous ruling was based on jury selection statistics that were too broad.

Gavel, Court
SalFalko via Flickr, Creative Commons

This morning, the state supreme court will hear the cases of four defendants who were removed from death row under the state's racial justice act. The court will review whether the now repealed-act should apply to these defendants.
 

State lawmakers repealed the Racial Justice Act last year. It allowed death row inmates to receive life imprisonment if they could show that racial bias contributed to their sentences.

NC Legislative building
NC General Assembly

Lawmakers in the state House have given final approval to a bill that would repeal the Racial Justice Act.

It's a law that gives death row inmates the chance to appeal their sentences if they can prove racial bias was a factor in their cases.

State Senate chamber
Dave DeWitt

House lawmakers have tentatively passed a bill that would repeal the Racial Justice Act, a landmark law that allows death row prisoners to appeal their sentences on the basis of racial bias.

Republican Representative Sarah Stevens told her colleagues that there should be better ways to eliminate racism from juries and trials.

State Senate chamber
Dave DeWitt

State senators have voted to repeal a historic law passed in 2009 that allows death row inmates to use statistical evidence of racial bias to challenge their sentences.

  In North Carolina, when you purchase a handgun, your gun permit goes into the state's public records. Recently, however, Republican lawmakers have sponsored a bill that would remove this information from public access. Today on The State of Things we speak with local experts about the struggle between the first and second amendment.

Three death row inmates had their sentences commuted yesterday to life in prison.  A Cumberland County judge said race wrongly played a role in the jury selection for their cases.

Tilmon Golphin, Christina Walters and Quintel Augustine were on death row for killing five people – three of them law enforcement officers.  Scott Bass is Executive Director of “Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation.” He was in court when Superior Court Judge Greg Weeks re-sentenced the three inmates.

Scott Bass:  "You know I can’t say that I’m happy.  There’s nothing to celebrate here."

State lawmakers have overridden the governor's veto of a bill that waters down the Racial Justice Act. The Act, passed in 2009, allows death row prisoners to challenge their sentences based on statistical evidence of discrimination. The new bill will limit the time frame and scope of statistics that inmates can use to challenge their sentences. Republican House Majority Leader Paul Stam thinks that's reasonable.

Republican legislative leaders are expected to try to override the governor's veto of a measure that would water down the Racial Justice Act. The Act, passed in 2009, allows death row prisoners to appeal their sentences using statistical evidence of discrimination.

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