Victory in NC: Governor Vetoes Repeal of Racial Justice Act

In late November we blogged that North Carolina’s Senate approved Senate Bill 9, which repealed the two-year old Racial Justice Act that allows death-row inmates to appeal their sentences based on statistical proof of racial bias. We are happy to report that today Governor Bev Perdue vetoed this bill.

Though she reiterated her support for the death penalty in a statement her office released late this morning, Governor Perdue added that “because the death penalty is the ultimate punishment, it is essential that it be carried out fairly and that the process not be infected with prejudice based on race.  I signed the Racial Justice Act into law two years ago because it ensured that racial prejudice would not taint the application of the death penalty.”

Perdue’s statement also countered claims that have been made by the state’s prosecutors that a successful appeal under the Racial Justice Act would free inmates.  In reality, if a judge determines racial bias was a significant factor to impose the death sentence, he or she must reduce a death sentence to life in prison without parole.

A veto of the bill means Perdue will call back the Legislature by January to consider an override.  We applaud Governor Perdue for vetoing this bill and preserving the needed Racial Justice Act.  We hope that North Carolina’s legislature will sustain her veto.

Photo of Gov. Perdue by Takaaki Iwabu

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