Changes to Racial Justice Act on their way to Perdue

Posted June 20, 2012

— Death row inmates would no longer be able to rely solely on statistics to prove racial bias in their sentencing under a bill the state Senate sent to Gov. Bev Perdue this afternoon. 

S 416 modifies -- its critics would say "repeals" -- the Racial Justice Act, which was passed in 2009 when Democrats controlled the House and Senate. Today, Republicans control both chambers and many in the GOP have been critical of the bill.

"All but about three of the convicts on death row, regardless of race, have filed these racial justice act claims...and they have done so with cooked statistics," said Sen. Buck Newton, R-Wilson.

Under the 2009 law, death row inmates could use statistics to prove racial bias in their sentencing. If the inmate is successful, as one inmate has already been, a judge can convert their sentence to life in prison. The modification measure would change the law so that statistics alone would not be enough to prove racial bias.

Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham, a primary author of the original bill, said requiring inmates to show factors particular to their own case would make racial bias would been nearly impossible to prove.

"What we have before us is a gutting of the racial justice act," McKissick said.

The measure passed on a 30-18 vote. It has already passed the House. 


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