NC House committee OKs update to Racial Justice Act

Posted June 11, 2012

Death Row, Death Penalty, Execution

— Members of the North Carolina House Judiciary Committee agreed Monday evening to a tweak to the Racial Justice Act, a 2009 law that allows convicted killers to be re-sentenced to life imprisonment without parole if they can prove that racial bias influenced their death sentences.

The bill would change a key provision of the law to require that judges have evidence beyond simple statistical analysis before deciding that race was a factor in a sentence. The law on the books allows judges to use statistical data showing that race must have been a factor in prosecutors' decisions, even if no one testifies that bias played a role in a specific case.

The new version would also limit a judge's ability to commute a death sentence to life. A provision would take the governor and Council of State out of the process of approving death penalty protocols, a response to a lawsuit by death row inmates that has been one of the legal challenges putting executions in North Carolina on hold since 2006.

Prosecutors statewide have complained that the Racial Justice Act is too vague and opens the door for death penalty appeals regardless of innocence or guilt. More than 150 condemned killers – nearly all of the state's death row – have filed for a review of their cases under the act.

Supporters argue that the racial make-up of a jury or any evidence of bias must be weighed to determine if the death penalty is fairly administered.

In the first case under the Racial Justice Act, Superior Court Judge Greg Weeks ruled in April that race significantly influenced jury selection in Marcus Robinson’s 1994 trial in the 1991 shooting death of a white 17-year-old, Erik Tornblom, and ordered Robinson removed from death row. The ruling has been appealed.

Perdue vetoed an attempt by the Republican-led legislature to repeal the Racial Justice Act outright last year, and lawmakers weren't able to muster the votes to override her opposition.


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  • Tcheuchter Jun 12, 2012

    "retroconsultant - ever seen or talked to a rape victim? Not meaning to ridicule you but, rape use to be a heinous crime when men respected and held women on a pedastal."

    When did it stop being a heinous crime? and sorry to break it to you but men get raped too.....

  • Tcheuchter Jun 12, 2012

    "Death within 6 months of conviction."

    How would you get SCOTUS to hear the case within that time? Surely you are not suggesting that we deny them their constitutional rights?
    Perhaps whilst we are doing that we can forget the 1st and 2nd amendments too....

  • WooHoo2You Jun 12, 2012

    No other cases. One appeal only. Death within 6 months of conviction.-retroconsultant

    While I do not believe someone should be on death row for 20+ years however there are 200 or so cases where DNA proved the convicted person was innocent YEARS ANDS YEARS after the trial. And no, I do not have an answer how it should be handled or how long it should take.

  • bill0 Jun 12, 2012

    "Why is it that *so much is blamed on race*, when it is important for EVERYONE to have a fair and just trial???????"

    Ugh, so you are just complaining about the name of the bill?

    The point of the bill is that when you look at the state as a whole, the statistics show that prosecutors are going after the death sentence more often when the victim is white and they are disproportionately striking blacks from death penalty juries. We should all want a justice system that is color blind. When that isn't happening, then yes, you need to investigate what type of racial prejudices are at play.

  • wayneuber Jun 12, 2012

    Rick Glazier couldn't distinguish between a death row inmate and a real victim even if he stepped into a capital crime in progress. He's just another mouthpiece for proven murderers and the academy of ambulance chasers.

  • carlostheass Jun 12, 2012

    retroconsultant, with some minor clarifications I could accept your death penalty list as written. Well said.

  • dollibug Jun 12, 2012

    Racial Justice Act....wonder why the NC HOUSE COMMITTEE does not just concentrate on the *TRUTH AND JUSTICE FOR ALL*? Why is it that *so much is blamed on race*, when it is important for EVERYONE to have a fair and just trial???????

  • dollibug Jun 12, 2012

    +++++ I have interviewed and investigated sexual assaults.

    I have to ask....have you ever interviewed and investigated persons who actually made *false accusations* of someone who actually did not commit any crime?????? This happens and those who are *falsely accused* do not have a chance unless the law enforcement officers cover all of their bases....there is so much CORRUPTION AND COVER UP....I am sure it is hard to figure out who is being truthful and who is lying....but I happen to know that there are innocent people being indicted, tried and convicted of crimes that they are NOT GUILTY OF....

  • boneymaroney13 Jun 11, 2012

    retroconsultant - ever seen or talked to a rape victim? Not meaning to ridicule you but, rape use to be a heinous crime when men respected and held women on a pedastal. I have interviewed and investigated sexual assaults. It should be seriously considered for inclusion to your list.

  • Sherlock Jun 11, 2012

    They should,