House panel debates changes to Racial Justice Act

Posted May 18, 2011

Death Row, Death Penalty, Execution

— A state House judiciary committee held nearly two hours of passionate debate Wednesday on proposed changes to the Racial Justice Act.

The 2009 law allows convicts sentenced to death to use statistical evidence to prove bias in their sentencing and be resentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Most of North Carolina's 158 death-row inmates have filed a claim under the act, including white inmates convicted of killing white victims. Many of the inmates question the racial makeup of juries that handled their cases.

House judicial panel discusses racial justice act, synthetic marijuana House panel discusses Racial Justice Act

Republican lawmakers have criticized the law since its passage, and with control of the General Assembly, they are looking to revise it.

House Bill 615 "No Discriminatory Purpose in Death Penalty" bans using statistical evidence in claims of bias and stipulates that inmates who prove bias would receive a resentencing hearing, not an automatic sentence.

The bill would also change the standard of bias inmates have to prove. Instead of proving that "race was a significant factor" in their sentencing, the inmates would have to prove that the state or at least one juror acted with "discriminatory purpose."

Critics of the Racial Justice Act say that it ties up courts and wastes resources and is too vague and broad.

Defenders of the law say that it is crucial to overcoming a legacy of racial discrimination in courts.

The judiciary committee did not vote on the bill, which remains under consideration.


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • DaddyDave May 19, 2011

    Sorry my numbers were off I found the spreadsheet I made from their pages of data. I forgot how bad/disporportional the numbers really are.

    Blacks killed 63.20% of the solved murders from 1990-2007.
    Whites/Hispanic killed 34.68% of the solved murders from 1990-2007.

    Whites/Hispanics make up ~41.32% of the inmates even though they killed only 34.68%

    Blacks ONLY make up ~52.69% of death row inmates even though they killed 63.2% of the solved murders.

  • DaddyDave May 19, 2011

    I'm all for making sure there is no racial bias. Go to the NCDOJ.COM website, look at murders stats as far back as they go. I did it last year, looking back over 10 years, even though whites/hispanics (approx 74% of population) only committed ~45% of the murders, they were ~54% of death row inmates.

    Even though the ~21.6% NC black population commited just over 50% of the total murders, they were only just ~40% of the death row inmates.

    Native americans only commited ~2% of the murders but were ~5% of death row inmates.

    Black/Black murder is the highest murder rate, then white/white, then black on white, then white on black. Many of these murders are gang related.

    Why are whites and native americans facing death sentence rates far higher than the rates of murders they commit? It racial bias AGAINST the Whites and Native americans. Statistically blacks are FAR LESS likely to face death penalty than their other race counterparts. That is blatant racial bias.

  • zippingz75 May 19, 2011

    Abolishing the death penalty is like telling KFC to stop killing chickens.DUHHHHHH!!

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama May 18, 2011

    The Racial Justice Act was flawed from the beginning.

  • anonemoose May 18, 2011


  • boatmonkey82 May 18, 2011

    I think I can honestly say if I ever killed out of anger or hate then I would expect nothing less than the death penalty and a quick one at that . eye for and eye . I would make a deal for a hasty death sentence the same way I took that persons life . If i were in for rape or any other crime not involving murder but deserves the death sentence then it should be a humiliating public death. Step up to the plate and sow the fruits of your actions

  • beachboater May 18, 2011

    "Abolish the death penalty and be done with it--no harm, no foul." rgbreed

    Isn't that an oxymoron?

  • Mark Hayes May 18, 2011

    Has anyone been watching or reading the news from Cumberland County I mean this is going a bit far to say racial profiling of blacks when they have arrested about eight or so in the last two weeks for shootings yes we have all races involved in crime but it is what it is why special treatment for any.

  • ghimmy51 May 18, 2011

    I honestly don't have an opinion about this. Shocking, huh? I can't dispute there are more of some races in prison. I believe the judicial process can't be made more fair than it is, with prosecution and defense agreeing on the jury and defense "shopping for the right judge". I tend to believe the skewed numbers are more about a group having its' own societal beliefs that consider education and work to be for chumps. For a few decades now wider society has tried hard to provide education and access to success without breaking into a house. We're doing something wrong, obviously.

  • batcave May 18, 2011

    Racial Justice Act--pandering legistlation that cost you the House---and soon the gov's office