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June 29, 2012

NC Gov Perdue again vetoes effort by legislature to reform state's Racial Justice Act

As reported in this new AP piece, "Gov. Bev Perdue on Thursday vetoed legislation that rolls back a landmark state law that allows death-row inmates to argue that their sentence resulted from racial bias." Here is more:

"As long as I am governor, I will fight to make sure the death penalty stays on the books in North Carolina. But it has to be carried out fairly — free of prejudice," Perdue said in a statement.

The Republican-controlled legislature passed the bill by margins that would appear to be enough for an override of Perdue's veto. Legislative leaders said they would try to push the legislation into law over Perdue's effort to block it.

"While Governor Perdue may claim to support the death penalty, her veto proves she's in lock-step with the leftist elements of her party who want to abolish it," Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, and House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, said. "We will work with both sides of the aisle to override yet another irresponsible gubernatorial veto."

The existing state law allows judges to consider statistical analysis of cases showing race must have been a factor in prosecution decisions, even if no one testifies bias played a role in a specific case. Republicans who took over the General Assembly last year have sought to void or weaken the law passed in 2009, when Democrats controlled the legislature.

The law Perdue vetoed would allow convicts to offer statistics they think prove racial bias from a time span 10 years before a slaying and two years after they are sentenced. There is currently no time limit. The bill also says statistics alone cannot prove race was a significant factor in a death-row inmate's conviction or sentence. Statistics also would be limited to the conduct of prosecutors near where the murder occurred, rather than anywhere in the entire state as the current law allows.

The state's district attorneys sought the changes after saying that the Racial Justice Act clogged the court system and delayed the carrying out of capital punishment. Nearly all the 150-plus inmates on North Carolina's death row filed for reviews under the law, including white defendants convicted of killing white victims.

Opponents say the changes gut the intent of the law, which was removing racial discrimination from the criminal justice system and ensuring fairness in carrying out capital punishment.

In the first case under the law, Cumberland County Superior Court Judge Greg Weeks ruled in April that condemned killer Marcus Robinson's 1991 trial was so tainted by the racially influenced decisions of prosecutors that he should be removed from death row. Prosecutors plan to appeal the sentencing decision.

I am not surprised by the repeat veto, and it will be interesting to see if the NC legislature can keep the votes together for an override.  And, in light of Gov Perdue's strong veto statement (which can be accessed in full here), I wonder if she might end up commuting a lot of death sentences if/when the NC legislature succeeds in its override effort.

June 29, 2012 at 10:11 AM | Permalink

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Comments

Once again, Dems hooking up murderers and inflicting pain on murder victims. The evidence that's allowable in these cases is a joke. If you have independent decisionmakers (and since prosecutors' decisions are independent of those in other jurisdictions), then how in the world can the decisions of prosecutors in one county be relevant to the decisions in another court. Yet that's just what the RJA provides. Since that's obviously nuts, why did Dems vote for it? Are they that stupid, or do they like helping out heinous murderers?

Can someone defend the use of state-wide stats to denigrate the decision of a local prosecutor? Come on guys--let's see you do it.

Posted by: federalist | Jun 29, 2012 2:22:01 PM

|| Nearly all the 150-plus inmates on North Carolina's death row filed for reviews under the law, including [mostly] white defendants convicted of killing white victims.

Opponents say the changes gut the intent of the law... |

What a wayward law, the RJA. Is this not the epitome of a law in dire need of gutting?

Posted by: Adamakis | Jun 29, 2012 10:44:38 PM

The veto has been overriden -- http://www.wral.com/news/state/nccapitol/story/11272722/

Posted by: JD | Jul 2, 2012 3:04:03 PM

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