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@NCCapitol

House gives final OK to repeal Racial Justice Act

Posted June 5, 2013

— State House lawmakers gave final approval today to repeal the remaining parts of North Carolina’s landmark Racial Justice Act.

The final vote was 77-39, along party lines, with the Republican majority voting for the repeal.

The repeal, Senate Bill 306, now goes back to the Senate for a final vote to approve changes the House made.

The 2009 Racial Justice Act gives death row inmates an opportunity to have their sentences commuted to life without parole if they can prove to a judge that racial bias played a role in their sentencing.

Four condemned inmates have succeeded in cases under the law so far. Their sentences were commuted in 2012 by Cumberland County Judge Gregory Weeks, who said they presented overwhelming evidence of bias in the state's courts system, especially in jury selection.

Republican leaders repealed much of the Racial Justice Act last year. Senate Bill 306 would undo the remainder of the legislation.

Critics of the Racial Justice Act say it's a "de facto moratorium on the death penalty." They say the repeal will allow executions in North Carolina to begin again.

But opponents of the repeal say it could add even more legal delays for the estimated 140 death row inmates who have cases pending under the current law. 

Rep. Darren Jackson, D-Wake, said the repeal could add 5 to 10 years to the time it will take to resume executions.

"You don’t give someone a right, allow them to assert it, and then take it away," Jackson said.

Because four inmates had their sentences commuted, Jackson said, other death row inmates whose pending cases would be thrown out by the repeal can claim they were not treated equally.

"It certainly will raise a claim that will have to be litigated in court in years to come," he said. "You are gift-wrapping even more avenues for appeals for these murderers."  

But repeal supporter Rep. Skip Stam, R-Wake, disagreed with Jackson's legal arguments. 

“A capital defendant retains all the rights that the state and federal constitutions provide” against racial bias, Stam said. "Get justice back into the death penalty scenario." 

Senate Bill 306 also protects medical professionals who assist at executions from sanctions or punishment by the groups that govern their professions.

The Senate is expected to agree to the House's changes to the legislation. The repeal bill could be on Governor McCrory's desk by the end of the week. 

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  • Hugh Jass Jun 8, 10:52 a.m.

    Let this be the last word on this subject. NEXT

  • ConservativeVoter Jun 7, 8:32 p.m.

    This allowed murderers to play the race card to get a reduced sentence on a crime they committed.

    This act was Bev Perdue and the Democrats pandering to African Americans to get their vote.

  • goldenosprey Jun 7, 12:49 p.m.

    ""Everyone knows killing is wrong"

    "Then why must the State do it if it's wrong?"

    At least these people ACTUALLY did something wrong to get them the death penalty. What did the millions of unborn babies do last year to deserve being put to death? Why aren't liberals ever concerned about that?

    Always funny to me the same people who are for killing babies in the womb, usually are ones that are already alive." statefann99

    Are you gonna answer the question or spout off about something that has nothing to do with the thread. If the fetus is unborn, it is not necessarily "put to death."

  • StateFan99 Jun 7, 12:05 p.m.

    "Everyone knows killing is wrong"

    "Then why must the State do it if it's wrong?"

    At least these people ACTUALLY did something wrong to get them the death penalty. What did the millions of unborn babies do last year to deserve being put to death? Why aren't liberals ever concerned about that?

    Always funny to me the same people who are for killing babies in the womb, usually are ones that are already alive.

  • josephlawrence43 Jun 7, 12:04 p.m.

    affirmativediversity: The difference between justice and fairness is justice is a reward or punishment based on a predetermined set of circumstances and predetermined punishments(i.e. sentencing guidelines which are used in NC). Fairness is an award or punishment based on the actual facts of a given situation. For a coldblooded killer--justice may well be 20 years to life with the possiblity of parole (in NC at least) for the killer. Fairness would be the death penalty to be carried out with certainity and promptly. Justice permits a killer to continue living for any number of years beyond that denied his victim. Fairness assures the killer the imposition of a fate equal to that of his victim. So, which in your opinion is better--justice or fairness?

  • Offshore Jun 7, 11:15 a.m.

    Justice is suppose to be blind... and these criminals are tried by a jury of their peers. There should not be any "racial" aspect.... period.

    mep

    Good point mep, problem is many people see racism as a one way street. There lies a problem with that train of thought. I have experienced that those who complain about racism are often racist themselves but don't see it that way. Troubled times.

  • Offshore Jun 7, 11:08 a.m.

    While we hear repeatedly the term "justice"--one that is seldom, if ever, mentioned is "fairness". There is a truly huge difference between the two..

    josephlawrence43

    Point being??

  • affirmativediversity Jun 7, 11:01 a.m.

    While we hear repeatedly the term "justice"--one that is seldom, if ever, mentioned is "fairness". There is a truly huge difference between the two.. per josephlawrence43

    -----------------

    What's fair about a law that gives admitted murderers yet another chance to blame someone else for their predicament by spewing nothing more that racially charged hate speech.

    Seriously...look at the comments on here...all those for this act make the assertion that ALL white people are racist and only white people.

    Whose really the racist now?

  • affirmativediversity Jun 7, 10:55 a.m.

    It slays me that most of the people complaining about repealing the Racial Justice Act are doing so on the assumption that the murderer is innocent (and therefore wrongly convicted by some hateful jury full of racists)...hmmmm...you do realize that the Racial Justice Act was written for murderers that ADMIT THEIR GUILT but think they were sentenced to death unfairly.

    Mull that over in your cranial cavity for a while...

  • affirmativediversity Jun 7, 10:50 a.m.

    antoniowillia20...you obviously have absolutely no understanding of how a jury is selected.

    First neither side gets to pick the entire jury...actually neither side has any say on who is in the jury pool. That is drawn by lot from voter registration and DMV records.

    Next 12 people are selected, at random, and both sides have the opportunity to question all...both sides can dismiss up to 3 jurors with no reason given and the Judge can dismiss a juror, at any time, for cause.

    Your assertion that anyone can "stack a jury with racial bias" is complete nonsense.

    Oh and what does the Zimmerman case have to do with this, unless its your assertion that neither black or hispanic people have the ability to be unbiased?

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