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December 14, 2011

NC Governor vetoes bill to repeal state's Racial Justice Act

This AP story reports on an interesting (though I think anticipated) new development in the controversy over North Carolina's Racial Justice Act.  Here are the details:

North Carolina's governor on Wednesday halted a Republican effort to dismantle a law that gives death row inmates a new way to use racial bias as an argument for appealing their sentences. Gov. Beverly Perdue vetoed a bill that would have essentially repealed 2009's Racial Justice Act, which was designed to address concerns that race has played a role in sentencing prisoners to death.

The law says a judge must reduce a death sentence to life in prison without parole if he determines race was a significant factor to impose the penalty. It creates a new kind of court hearing where prisoners can use statistics to make their case to a judge. North Carolina and Kentucky are the only states with laws like it.

The Democratic governor had signed the 2009 bill into law. In a statement Wednesday, she said that "it is simply unacceptable for racial prejudice to play a role in the imposition of the death penalty in North Carolina."

Prosecutors who pushed the repeal said the act is clogging the courts with new appeals and, in effect, halting capital punishment. Nearly all of the 158 prisoners currently on death row — both black and white inmates — have filed papers seeking relief under the Racial Justice Act.

Perdue's veto means she must call lawmakers back to Raleigh to consider an override by Jan. 8. Lawmakers say it will be difficult to override the veto, especially in the House, where it passed in June along party lines. Republicans are a few votes shy of a veto-proof majority in the chamber. "I am disappointed in yet another decision by Gov. Perdue to put politics ahead of principle," House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, said in a prepared statement. He said she's let down families of victims and prosecutors "who need every available resource to crack down on violent criminals."...

The governor's veto came two days after she met with relatives of murder victims. Some of those relatives asked her to keep the 2009 act on the books. "We applaud her for understanding that racially-biased justice is not justice at all and for reaffirming that she values the lives and the safety of all citizens regardless of race," said a statement from Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation, a Washington-based group that opposes the death penalty.

Some older and newer related posts on the North Carolina Racial Justice Act:  

December 14, 2011 at 01:28 PM | Permalink


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Another capital murderer coddling Democrat . . . . and in other news, water is wet.

Posted by: federalist | Dec 14, 2011 3:49:00 PM

Not surprising, it's easier to exercise veto power than it is to admit you were wrong or the law you passed was a mess.

Posted by: MikeinCT | Dec 14, 2011 5:01:08 PM

federalist and MikeinCT --

It is often said by abolitionists that politics plays a big role in the DP, and for once, it's true. The Racial Justice Act was a big deal to politically active blacks, and politically active blacks are a large segment of the core Democratic constituency in North Carolina. Perdue knew that if she crossed such a significan segment of her party's base, she could get primaried next time around. Thus she took the politically shrewd course in using her veto.

Not a whole lot more to it than that. Politicians know how to count, and Perdue is a politician.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 14, 2011 5:20:27 PM


Thank you for your accurate observation and comment.

Posted by: albeed | Dec 14, 2011 9:59:25 PM

I must be lost, I thought the above commenters were the ones who are always talking about how the voice of the people as expressed through the political branches was sacred. When the minorities and abolitionists get their way, I guess that sacred voice is just special interest politics.

Posted by: dm | Dec 15, 2011 12:20:58 AM

The majority were voiced by the majority of the legislature who were elected since 2009. This legislature was ignored by Perdue.

Posted by: MikeinCT | Dec 15, 2011 12:25:40 AM

What specifically was the RJA to remedy? How can 152 out of 158 white, black, & other convicted murderers have been victims of "racial prejudice…in the imposition of the death penalty"?

Two months ago I spoke with a (non-criminal) anti-DP judge who resides in NC, from whom I observed the following:

(1) she could only defend the Racial Justice Act as "symbolic", rather than as an effective remedy;
(2) she acknowledged that tying-down-the-system and "preventing actual executions" of any convicts is what she and others desire, by hook or by *crook, as an immediate station en route to eventual abolition.

Can anyone tell of a wrongful death sentence due to race in NC?

Posted by: Adamakis | Dec 15, 2011 9:05:11 AM

dm --

"I must be lost..."

Nailed it.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 15, 2011 11:36:25 AM

Adamakis --

"How can 152 out of 158 white, black, & other convicted murderers have been victims of 'racial prejudice…in the imposition of the death penalty'"?

Because there is a significant strain of abolitionism for whom race is the universal polestar. Every criminal justice policy in the United States they dislike is simply a result of the fact that the racial past of the USA stinks, therefore the USA stinks, therefore the USA has no moral standing to punish anyone for anything. That is the "thinking" -- whether acknowledged or not -- that lies behind the push for ending the DP and pushing imprisonment to the vanishing point.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 15, 2011 11:45:00 AM


You've got something there. That which I find most disappointing is the prevailing P.C. or "conventional wisdom" which proclaims that a **disproportionate number of Afro-American murderers are prejudicially executed**, whereas the truth is that the race of the defendant is a false predictor of a death sentence!

Posted by: Adamakis | Dec 15, 2011 2:36:11 PM

Yes, because any law that results in the filing of some meritless, or even frivolous claims, is necessarily illegitimate.

And listening to an interest group other than mine is the height of political cravenness, whilst caving in to my special interest group is statesmanship and good government.

Posted by: Ungrateful Biped | Dec 16, 2011 2:08:52 PM


Can you tell of a wrongful death sentence due to race in NC?

Posted by: Adamakis | Dec 16, 2011 2:26:32 PM

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