Raleigh, N.C. — The state Senate has given final legislative approval to a bill aimed at restarting executions in North Carolina that includes language repealing the last parts of the Racial Justice Act.
Passed in 2009, the Racial Justice Act allowed death row inmates to challenge their sentences based on statistical evidence of racism in their sentencings.
Calling the original measure "poorly written," Sen. Tom Goolsby, R-New Hanover, pointed out that nearly every death row inmate, white and black, has filed an RJA appeal, even if they were convicted of killing someone of their own race.
But those who helped pass the bill said that frivolous appeals could be dismissed.
"Racism in our criminal justice system is a fact," said Sen. Earline Parmon, D-Forsyth, saying that the appeals merely ensure the criminal justice system didn't make a mistake it couldn't reverse. "If you ever hear of a case where we made a mistake, the blood is on your hands."
But Goolsby argued that legal procedures such as "motions for appropriate relief" allow for mistakes to be rectified and any overt racism to be challenged.
"We have multiple avenues of appeal that work," he said.
The bill also makes other administrative changes to death penalty procedures designed to comply with legal challenges to how executions are carried out. Combined with existing RJA challenges, a variety of legal rulings have imposed a de facto moratoriums on executions. Backers of this measure say it is aimed a lifting that moratorium.
The bill now goes to Gov. Pat McCrory for his signature or veto.