The House of Representatives has voted 73-47 to gut the Racial Justice Act. The vote was on S 416, a bill originally about using tire retreads on school buses. The House stripped out the original content and replaced it with language limiting the use of statistical evidence to show racial bias in the death penalty. Because this was done by amending an already-passed Senate bill, S 416 will go back to the Senate only for a concurrence vote.
This comes after one court found the RJA to be constitutional and another court heard the first case under the law. In that case, Superior Court Judge Greg Weeks ruled for the defendant, overturned his death sentence and re-sentenced him to life in prison without parole. Judge Weeks found “a wealth of evidence showing the persistent, pervasive, and distorting role of race in jury selection throughoutNorth Carolina. The evidence, largely unrebutted by the State, requires relief in this case and should serve as a clear signal of the need for reform in capital jury selection proceedings in the future.”
In the face of an NC judge considering the evidence and finding a “persistent, pervasive, and distorting role of race,” the House of Representatives could have expressed its distress that racism in the courts determines who lives and who dies and called for reform in jury selection. Tragically, the House’s response was to gut the Racial Justice Act instead.
1) E-mail or call your senator and ask him/her to vote against concurrence on S 416 and the gutting of the RJA.
2) E-mail or call the Governor’s office and ask her to veto this bill, if it comes to her desk, just as she vetoed last year’s effort to kill the RJA.
3) Click here to find out how your representative voted on S 416, and communicate with them your pleasure or disappointment at their vote. Reps. Brisson, Crawford, Hill, Owens, and Spear, who supported the preservation of the Racial Justice Act last year, voted to gut it yesterday. Their votes will be necessary to sustain a gubernatorial veto of S 416.
To call Governor Perdue’s office: (919) 733-4240. Or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
–George Reed, Executive Director