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November 16, 2011

North Carolina DAs urge state legislature to repeal Racial Justice Act

As reported in this AP article, North Carolina's district attorneys are urging state senators to swiftly repeal the state's Racial Justice Act.   Here are the basics from the start of the article, as well as snippets from the DAs pitch for repeal:

The Legislature should act quickly to repeal a new law that gives death row inmates another way to challenge their sentences on the grounds of racial bias, North Carolina's district attorneys argue in a letter to state senators. " ... if you do not address this issue quickly, the criminal justice system will be saddled with litigation that will crush an already under-funded and overburdened system," wrote Johnston County District Attorney Susan Doyle, president of the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys.

The letter was sent Monday and addressed to Senate leader Phil Berger.  It also went to all senators, said Peg Dorer, executive director of the conference.  Forty-three of the 44 elected district attorneys support a resolution calling for the changes, Dorer said.  Durham County District Attorney Tracey Cline didn't sign the resolution, the conference said.

The Racial Justice Act allows death row inmates and defendants facing the death penalty to use statistics and other evidence to show that racial bias played a significant role in either their sentence or in the prosecutors' decision to pursue the death penalty.  The law says an inmate's sentence is reduced to life in prison without the possibility of parole if the claim is successful....

Doyle's letter cites four reasons that the law should be repealed: white inmates are taking advantage of the law; the cost is prohibitive; it created a quagmire in the courts; and contrary to what the law says, some inmates could be released if sentenced to life without parole.  "I challenge you (to) see RJA for what it really is, not a search to eliminate bias, but a backdoor deal to end the death penalty in North Carolina," Doyle said.

I cannot yet find the DAs letter on line, but I will post it if/when I find an electronic copy. 

Some related posts on the North Carolina Racial Justice Act:

UPDATE:  Via the ACLU, I found a copy of the two-page letter referenced here now available at this link.

November 16, 2011 at 02:55 PM | Permalink

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Comments

Dude, it was just passed like last year. Respect the process; you lost the vote, the legislation deserves at least a minimal time for testing/evaluation.

Posted by: Anon | Nov 16, 2011 3:55:58 PM

@Anon
1. Enough time has passed to see its flaws, namely that nearly ALL of the inmates are using it irrespective of their race.
2. A part of the process is that legislators are allowed to change their minds.
3. It was passed two years ago, not last year.

Posted by: MikeinCT | Nov 16, 2011 9:54:52 PM

It's Anon who needs to "respect the process." A year ago we had a "process" called an election. Based in part on their pushing through the RJA, the Democrats lost as never before, putting the Republicans in charge of both houses of the state legislature for the first time since Reconstruction. The ONLY thing the RJA could do, and the only thing it's designed to do, is let black killers off even if there isn't a shred of discrimination in their cases, simply because statistics from OTHER cases suggest discrimination at an earlier time.

The Republicans are by no means obligated to "respect" such a bill, since it was in part their very opposition to it that brought them their current majorities. The people have had their say, and it is their will, not Anon's, that democratic self-government is obliged to respect.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 17, 2011 12:51:44 AM

I wonder if there are any separation of powers issues with the RJA. Usually, legislation cannot rip open judgments, see, e.g., Plaut v. Spendthrift Farms.

Posted by: federalist | Nov 17, 2011 9:11:05 AM

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