Yesterday, the North Carolina House of Representatives voted to repeal the Racial Justice Act, a law that has been in effect since 2009 and allowed death row inmates to use state and county statistics to try to prove that racial bias played a significant role in their case in an attempt to be re-sentenced to life in prison.
Opponents of the Racial Justice Act have been trying to restrict the law since its inception. Last year the legislature limited the use of statistics that could be used to prove racial bias and put a stronger burden of proof on the defendant. Despite these rollbacks, some inmates were able to receive reduced sentences under the Act. A judge in Cumberland County cited a Michigan State study of North Carolina when he reduced the sentences of four convicted murderers on racial grounds. The study examined cases between 1990 and 2010 and found that prosecutors had removed black people from capital trial juries at more than twice the rate of others.
The Senate already passed the bill to repeal the Racial Justice Act but now has to approve some small changes that were added by the House. The bill will then head to the desk of Governor Pat McCrory, who has already said that he will sign it. North Carolina hasn’t carried out an execution since 2006 due to various legal appeals. They have 152 individuals on their death row and this repeal bill will likely cause executions to resume.
“It’s incredibly sad,” said Representative Rick Glazier, who strongly supported the Racial Justice Act. “If you can’t face up to your history and make sure it’s not repeated, it lends itself to being repeated.”
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