Religious leaders rally to save Racial Justice Act

Posted June 14, 2011

Death Row, Death Penalty, Execution

— Religious leaders from across the state gathered at the General Assembly Tuesday morning to ask lawmakers to keep the Racial Justice Act on the books.

The 2-year-old law helps North Carolina prisoners challenge their death sentences on the basis of racial bias. The House is scheduled to debate repealing the law on Wednesday.

Rev. Alan Felton, pastor of Salem United Methodist Church, said the law ensures that a death sentence is imposed only after defendants have received their due process rights "and after the surety those convictions are not biased by racial bias."

Ministers said the law is a moral issue, not a partisan one.

Religious leaders rally to save Racial Justice Act

In a 9-6 vote on June 1, a House judiciary committee recommended that the full House dismantle the Racial Justice Act, which allows defendants to offer statistical evidence to show race played a key factor in their sentence. Studies have shown that defendants convicted of killing a white person are three times as likely to be sentenced to death than those convicted of killing people of other races.

A judge who agrees that the defendant's case is tainted could reduce a death sentence to life in prison.

Republicans have been critical of the law ever since it was passed by the Democratic-led Legislature and signed by Gov. Beverly Perdue in 2009. GOP lawmakers and prosecutors say the law is vague and is costing taxpayers millions of dollars, noting white death row inmates have used the law to try to overturn sentences.

"When a white defendant who murdered two white people can claim he (is going to be) put to death because he's white, that's outrageous," said Rep. Justin Burr, R-Stanly.

Democrats and defense attorneys say the current law ensures fairness for all in the criminal justice system.


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  • silencedogood Jun 15, 2011

    Rev. Alan Felton, pastor of Salem United Methodist Church - Is this the same AL Felton from Wilson? YES. The same AL Felton appointed to Sec of NC Dept OF Revenue by Gov Jim Hunt? YES. The same AL Felton that was chair to the Democratic party in Wilson? YES. Is this the same AL Felton that directed fundraisere for Democrats around eastern NC? YES. Is this the same AL Felton that worked at NCDMV and was fired amid corruption alligations involving payouts and bribes in the late 1990's? NO, that was AL Felton Sr, The (then) Director of DMV.... Oh!

  • quaten Jun 14, 2011

    When the statistics begin to sway towards a specific race, oversight is not a wasted effort. It shouldn't require a Racial Justice Act to provide it. Any opportunity to dig deeper for justice in a death penalty should be gestalt. However, whenever "Religious Leaders" are allowed involvment, justice runs the risk of being "racially" compromised.

    Everybody has an agenda. The "Religious Leaders" want to score victories for "The Cause". The convicted simply want to live a little longer. The state wants to rid itself of a monster.

    Yes - oversight is not a wasted effort.

  • slipscomb9466 Jun 14, 2011

    No accountability, as usual. It is scary to think what this could become years to come.

  • mep Jun 14, 2011

    The law allows defendants to offer statistical evidence to show race played a key factor in their sentence... but what statistics can also show is that some crimes are committed more often by a particular race. So what! There are lies, dang lies... and statistics. You can jumble numbers to make anything skew to your favor. RACE can not and should not be a factor in any sentence!

  • didisaythat Jun 14, 2011

    This is just another law so people are not responsible for their actions. The best way to stop any racial bias is if you are convicted of murder you automatically get the death penalty. That will take race, wealth, religion and any other reason you can think of to say you are being treated unfairly.

  • bmg379 Jun 14, 2011

    if it wasn't for organized religions,where would all the 3-4th generation of people in poverty go for assistance???

    answer,they would have to get a job like the rest of us

  • exquisite1 Jun 14, 2011

    Even though I agree with the Racial Justice act, I have this to say: "Screw organized religion!"

  • venitapeyton Jun 14, 2011

    Had sad that the thoughts and feelings of the victim(s) and their families get relegated to a back pew.

  • hermiem Jun 14, 2011

    kjackson47 - I concur with your assessment

    If these "activists" really want to do something about "racial bias" they may want to start in their own communities about trying to lower the crime rate for the black community. Of course that would take EFFORT and a lot of hard WORK! Of course this means that the whole social structure of African American race would have to be made - meaning strong supporting families, a great reduction in teenage pregnancies and last but not least African American males being much more responsible. I guess that it is just easier to shift the blame by playing the "race card."

  • umop apisdn Jun 14, 2011

    "I've seen enough A&E specials, etc. to sicken me."

    No offense but you haven't seen anything. Take my work for it, A&E specials are Disney compared to real life. I mean sure you get some of the details but not nearly everything.