We may be seeing a major act of Republican overreach here in North Carolina--serious enough to merit a repost from yesterday.
Back in 2009, North Carolina passed a law that allows death-row inmates to challenge their sentences if they can prove their trials were tainted by racial bias. The Racial Justice Act, one of the first of its kind, came into the spotlight earlier this year when Marcus Raymond Robinson successfully argued that prosecutors deliberately kept blacks off the jury that sentenced him to death in 1994. A major part of Robinson's case was a study by Michigan State law professors which showed prosecutors across the state improperly used their peremptory challenges to exclude prospective black jurors.
Well, we might not see cases like Robinson's for awhile. Late Wednesday, the state house passed a bill that more or less lobotomizes this landmark law.
Statistics could only be used for the county or judicial district where the crime was committed, rather than statewide, and only covering a period of 10 years before the offense and two years after the sentence. Defendants would have to come up with some other evidence to prove bias, as statistics alone would not be enough, under the proposed law.Late last year, the legislature passed a similar bill after prosecutors complained it would clog up the courts. However, Governor Bev Perdue vetoed it. The state senate had enough votes to override it, but the house didn't at the time. But five conservative Democrats broke ranks to vote for the bill, apparently buying Repub claims that the revised bill would still protect against racial bias.
The 72-47 vote Tuesday would be enough to override a gubernatorial veto.
There's still time to head this monstrosity off at the pass. Sign this petition to the North Carolina Senate telling them to let this bill stand.
The pressure is already on the state senate not to follow the state house's lead.
A soldier from Johnston County is among the supporters who want to keep the law the same.When you have both victims' families and former inmates agreeing on something like this, it's pretty telling.
"I'm witness to the fact that our justice system is not always right," said Yolanda Littlejohn. "They don't always get it right. This was shown in my sister's case when a man served 17 years for murdering her, and it wasn't him."
Darryl Hunt, a supporter of the Racial Justice Act, had his own death sentence overturned by D.N.A. evidence.
"It's a slap in the face to me, because I'm not here because our system worked. I didn't spend 19 years 4 months and 19 days in prison for a crime I didn't commit because our system worked," said Hunt.