Racial Justice Act

A picture of the US Supreme Court building.
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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of district attorneys who said the law was unnecessarily delaying capital cases, the North Carolina General Assembly repealed the Racial Justice Act in 2013.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State lawmakers repealed the Racial Justice Act last year.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 The court will review whether the now repealed-act should apply to these defendants.
 

State lawmakers repealed the Racial Justice Act last year.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 / WUNC

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 / WUNC

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.

Governor Bev Perdue has vetoed legislation that would roll back the Racial Justice Act.

House lawmakers have passed a bill that would rewrite the state's Racial Justice Act.

Jessica Jones: House lawmakers passed the controversial measure by a veto-proof 72 to 47 after a long debate yesterday afternoon. The bill would narrow the use of statistics that death row inmates could use to show that racial bias was a factor in their cases. It would also narrow the time frame inmates could use to prove bias. House Majority Leader Paul Stam is a sponsor of the bill.

A bill that would strip away much of the state's landmark Racial Justice Act passed a state House panel today.

Advocates of the state's Racial Justice Act are hailing a judge's ruling today that race was a factor in a death row inmate's jury selection. Marcus Robinson was sentenced in 1994 for murder. Superior Court Judge Gregory Weeks ruled that prosecutors in the trial disqualified potential black jurors more often than others. Stephen Dear with People of Faith Against the Death Penalty says he thinks this decision shows that bias has played a role in convictions.

The state's first Racial Justice Act hearing will get underway today in Cumberland County.

Later today, a Superior Court judge in Fayetteville will preside over a hearing that will ultimately decide whether to let a death row inmate live. Marcus Robinson is the first prisoner on death row to appeal his sentence under the Racial Justice Act, passed in 2009. If the judge finds racial bias played a role in Robinson’s conviction or sentencing, his sentence could be commuted to life in prison. Robinson’s mother, Shirley Burns, plans to attend the hearing.

Governor Bev Perdue has vetoed a bill that would have repealed the Racial Justice Act.

Lawmakers have adjourned their post-Thanksgiving work session.

Lawmakers in Raleigh have voted to repeal a historic law that allows death row inmates to appeal their sentences.

The state senate voted 27 to 17 last night to repeal the Racial Justice Act. The law was passed two years ago amid great fanfare. It allows inmates to appeal their sentences by using statistical evidence to show the influence of racial bias. Republican Senator Thom Goolsby introduced the measure to repeal the Racial Justice Act on the Senate floor.

State lawmakers are back in Raleigh today. They'll discuss repealing the Racial Justice Act.

One-hundred and fifty-one of North Carolina’s death row inmates say they can prove their sentencing was racially motivated. Starting next month, they’ll get the chance to take their claims to court. Under the Racial Justice Act – a controversial, two-year old law – convicts are allowed to appeal their sentences as a means to counter racial bias in the justice system. The first Racial Justice Act hearing goes to court in September. The convicted is an African-American man from Fayetteville who murdered a white teenager in 1991. Host Frank Stasio talks to Observer staff writer Paul Woolverton about why Marcus Reymond Robinson believes his death sentence should be changed to life without parole and about other Fayetteville headlines.

Lawmakers in the House have voted to nullify a 2009 law that allows death row prisoners to contest their sentences on the basis of racial bias. The law, called the Racial Justice Act, allows a judge to commute a condemned prisoner's sentence to life in prison if he or she determines the case was tainted by race. Republican representative Justin Burr says the law has forced prosecutors to spend too much time reviewing old cases.