At a recent House judiciary committee focused on legislation to do away with the 2009 Racial Justice Act, Seth Edwards, president of the North Carolina Association of District Attorneys, insisted that in NC capital cases, “… prosecutors do not see color.”
Then why did a 2010 Michigan State University study on North Carolina murder cases find that defendants accused of capital crimes against whites were more than twice as likely to receive the death penalty as those accused of capital crimes against people of color?
Then why were more than 40 percent of NC death row inmates sentenced by all white juries or juries consisting of only one person of color?
Then why do prosecutors across the state routinely dismiss qualified people of color from the jury pool twice as often as they dismiss whites?
Almost as bad as Mr. Edwards’ perception that race plays no role in capital murder cases is the game-playing by House lawmakers who recently replaced the text of an unrelated Senate bill with the text of the anti-Racial Justice Act and then introduced it into subcommittee discussion.
Well, that might seem harmless enough—until the big ‘aha’ moment of realizing that the strategy bypasses a significant part of how a bill becomes a law: if or when the bill passes the House and goes back to the Senate, there would be no requirement that it be considered by a Senate committee, and the only opportunity for any changes would be through the creation of a conference committee.
Is this really the best we can expect from the legislative leadership?
Sadly, maybe so.
But our faith asks us to uphold the values of prudence, caution, fairness and justice—especially when a person’s life hangs in the balance.
It’s only right to ensure that race isn’t a decisive factor in who gets life and who gets death—and that’s exactly what the NC Racial Justice Act does.
As people of faith who believe that every human being is a child of God blessed with value and dignity, we urge you to contact members of the NC House Judiciary Subcommittee B and your NC legislators and urge them to vote against H615.
— Megan Loughlin Nerz. Legislative Advocacy