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June 5, 2020

NC Supreme Court limits reach of repeal of state's Racial Justice Act in capital cases

Over a decade ago, North Carolina enacted a Racial Justice Act that allowed a capital defendant to seek relief on a claim that race was a significant factor in the decision to seek or impose the death penalty in his case. After nearly every person on North Carolina's death row made a claim under this statute, it was repealed by the legislature. Today the North Carolina Supreme Court in North Carolina v. Ramseur, No. 388A10 (N.C. June 5, 2020) (available here), limits the impact of this repeal. The majority opinion in this 6-1 ruling starts this way:

Defendant, Andrew Darrin Ramseur, was convicted of two counts of firstdegree murder and sentenced to death in 2010.  After his trial, defendant filed a motion seeking relief pursuant to the newly enacted North Carolina Racial Justice Act on the basis that race was a significant factor in the decision to seek or impose the death penalty in his case.  Before the trial court ruled on defendant’s motion, the General Assembly amended the Racial Justice Act in 2012 and then, in 2013, repealed the Racial Justice Act in its entirety. The trial court determined that this repeal rendered defendant’s pending motion void and therefore dismissed defendant’s Racial Justice Act claims.  Here we are asked to decide the constitutionality of the retroactive application of the repeal of the Racial Justice Act. For the reasons stated herein, we hold that applying the repeal retroactively violates the constitutional prohibition on ex post facto laws, and therefore we reverse the trial court.

The dissent by Justice Newby starts this way:

The narrow issue presented by this case is whether, as applied to defendant, legislation repealing the Racial Justice Act of 2009 (the RJA) constitutes an ex post facto law. The majority incorrectly answers this question in the affirmative.  The repeal plainly does not qualify as an ex post facto law because it left defendant in precisely the same legal situation as the one he occupied on 16 December 2007, when, according to a jury, he murdered Jennifer Lee Vincek and Jeffrey Robert Peck.  The repeal did not subject defendant to more serious or additional charges for past conduct, nor did it increase the punishment in effect on 16 December 2007.  When properly viewed, the General Assembly intended the RJA to provide a procedural mechanism by which a defendant could collaterally attack a capital sentence.  The General Assembly did not intend to make a substantive change to the death penalty sentencing law. As such, the General Assembly had the constitutional authority subsequently to amend it and repeal it.

June 5, 2020 at 03:03 PM | Permalink

Comments

It's a little debatable whether the ex post facto clause would apply to convictions for offenses committed between 7/1/2009 (when the Racial Justice Act went into effect) and 7/1/2013 (when the statute was repealed). I'm not really sure that repealing an avenue of repeal is really a change in penalty. It's really more of a procedural law change than a criminal law change per se.

I think the idea that the ex post facto clause would matter for offenses before 7/1/2009 is pretty silly.

Posted by: rex | Jun 5, 2020 11:24:10 PM

Foreign Cultures are trying to take over America. America, remember where you come from and the battles to get where you are. Theodore Roosevelt's ideas on Immigrants and being an AMERICAN in 1907.
'In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin.
But this is predicated upon the person's becoming in every facet an American, and nothing but an American...
There can be no divided allegiance here.
Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn't an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag...
We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language..
And we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.'
Theodore Roosevelt 1907


Who are the first to say Raciest? Raciest should not even be in our vocabulary - no such thing.

Posted by: LC in Texas | Jun 6, 2020 11:23:46 AM

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