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NC lawmakers vote to repeal death row law

Posted November 28, 2011
Updated November 29, 2011

— The Republican-controlled state Senate voted Monday night to repeal a landmark 2009 state law that allows death row inmates to appeal their sentences by using statistical evidence to try and prove the taint of racial bias.

Since the House had earlier passed the legislation, the Senate vote sends the measure to the desk of Gov. Beverly Perdue, who signed the Racial Justice Act into law two years ago. A Perdue spokesman said she'll review the bill before making a decision on it.

Under the current law, a death row inmate who successfully appeals the sentence would not be freed, but would spend life in prison without parole.

Relatives of murder victims, clergy members, lawmakers and even a wrongly convicted man appeared Monday before a legislative committee considering the measure to repeal.

"Race continues to play a factor in our system," said Darryl Hunt, who spent almost 20 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit.

Hunt, who is black, said he was spared a death sentence by one juror's vote, and he noted his jury included 11 white members and one black.

Racial Justice Act appeal Families of murder victims divided over law

"All we're asking for is justice and fairness in the system, where you won't be sentenced to death based upon the color of your skin," he said.

Prosecutors and victims maintain, however, that the law is ambiguous and is being misused. All but three of the 157 inmates on death row have filed appeals under the law.

"We are fearful that these death row inmates will be potentially released," Johnston County District Attorney Susan Doyle said, noting the General Assembly cannot mandate that sentences are commuted to life without parole.

Some victim relatives said they support the law and don't want it abandoned.

"If there is a problem with race in our justice system, I don't understand why we don't want to figure that out," said Ton Fewel, whose daughter was murdered.

House Majority Leader Paul Stam said using general racial statistics to decide individual cases is just wrong.

"Justice is personal; it's not collective," said Stam, R-Wake. "We don't punish people because they're members of a group. We don't exonerate people because they're members of a group."

Before going home Tuesday, lawmakers decided not to consider changes to the state gasoline tax. Without changing it, the tax will rise on Jan. 1 by 4 cents, to nearly 39 cents a gallon.

Republican House leaders want to stop that increase for six months, saying the increase would hurt businesses and families already struggling in this recession.

A six-month cap would cost the state $95 million, and the Department of Transportation has already budgeted that money to build and repair roads and bridges. Contractors also say a cap would cut thousands of jobs in road construction.

63 Comments

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  • fayncmike Nov 29, 5:04 p.m.

    There is a simple solution to all this nonsense. simply declare the death penalty unconstitutional, which it is, and take the decision out of the state's hands.

  • fayncmike Nov 29, 4:59 p.m.

    "When's the last time you heard of a higher income/education/class level black or hispanic guy in Cary going out and shooting somebody,

    UNC PH.d

    Hardly ever, they hire others to do that sort of stuff.

  • RM24 Nov 29, 1:30 p.m.

    Imagine if people would actually spend this much time and energy trying to fix problems instead of getting convicted murderers off death row!

  • Statick Nov 29, 10:50 a.m.

    "We're talking about statistics here Rebelyell55, please try to stay on topic, and at least improve your grammar skills."

    That's like asking a monkey to not throw their own feces.

  • Chairman of the Bored Nov 29, 10:09 a.m.

    This was WAY more important than letting the Gas Tax go up 4 cents.

    Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham County) said it's not the right time to look at capping the gas tax? Glad to see where the priorities are!

  • UNC PH.d Nov 29, 10:06 a.m.

    " LOL, their in the new just about everyday somewhere or in NC at least once a week."

    We're talking about statistics here Rebelyell55, please try to stay on topic, and at least improve your grammar skills.

  • UNC PH.d Nov 29, 10:04 a.m.

    So what rand321??

    You get sentenced to death for some horrible crime, and you're black/white/green/blue whatever color you deserve to die. Period. Doesn't matter your sad story, you made a choice to commit that crime, and you have to pay. Nobody ever thinks about the victim. There's no need for you to be on this planet anymore...

  • Rebelyell55 Nov 29, 10:00 a.m.

    When's the last time you heard of a higher income/education/class level black or hispanic guy in Cary going out and shooting somebody, or getting arrested for drugs?

    UNC PH.d

    November 29, 2011 9:39 a.m.

    LOL, their in the new just about everyday somewhere or in NC at least once a week.

  • Rebelyell55 Nov 29, 9:58 a.m.

    There are lies, dang lies, and then statistics....

  • Rebelyell55 Nov 29, 9:57 a.m.

    this does not seem like justice

    rand321

    November 29, 2011 9:52 a.m.

    Your most likely right, but, this law does not address that issue. This law had a purpose and it was put to use, but since most who would of been applicable to this law has used it, it's no longer needed. The responsibility of the judges are to make sure this does not happen any more.

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