Racial Justice Act

Published 4:29 pm Tuesday, January 31, 2012

To the Editor:
As elected district attorney since 1995 and past president of the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys, I offer the following truths into what has often been a debate full of half truths and untruths on the part of supporters of North Carolina’s 2009 “Racial Justice Act (RJA).”
North Carolina’s “RJA” directly opposes the centuries-old concept that justice should be blind. North Carolina’s Death Penalty laws consider only the facts of each case; while North Carolina’s 2009 “RJA” considers race only and specifically prohibits examining the facts.
The “RJA” makes us the only state to require the court to accept statistical racial percentages to decide who gets the death penalty rather than a life sentence. This directly violates constitutional law laid out by the U.S. Supreme Court since the 1987 case McCleskey v. Kemp. The “RJA” was enacted in 2009 without any Republican votes, because it belies its cynical title, “The Racial Justice Act.” Many believe instead of racial justice this statute is designed to discontinue the death penalty (defacto) across the state without expressly articulating this goal.  Some evidence to support this can be found in the fact that virtually all white convicted murderers on North Carolina’s death row have filed “RJA” petitions based on these statistical racial percentages.
Senate Bill 9 amends North Carolina’s “RJA” to bring us back into agreement with the other 49 states and the U.S. Supreme Court. The “RJA” wrongfully assumes North Carolina grand jurors, North Carolina judges; North Carolina district attorneys and assistant district attorneys; North Carolina trial juries; North Carolina law officers and apparently North Carolina citizens in general are racially biased.  Governor Perdue’s veto of Senate Bill 9 is in direct opposition to her constituents’ solid support of the death penalty in appropriate cases regardless of race.
Senate Bill 9 would require defendants now raising the issue of race in their respective capital cases to examine the facts of their particular cases rather than general statistical racial percentages of the type required under the RJA and disallowed by the U.S. Supreme Court since 1987.
In North Carolina any perceived statistical variances are due by law to the aggravating factors in each individual murder case (such as heinous, atrocious, or cruel). Indeed, when North Carolina’s death penalty murder cases are compared according to the statutory aggravating factors of each individual case, any perceived differences in racial percentages between blacks and whites disappear.
Finally, if the current “RJA” continues to be North Carolina law in death penalty cases in which it is invoked, there appears to be nothing which would prohibit defendants in non-capital criminal cases from attempting to prove “racial bias” in their respective cases with the same type of statistical racial percentages embraced by North Carolina’s “RJA,”and rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court since 1987, (McCleskey v. Kemp).
I urgently ask every member of the General Assembly, regardless of race or political party, to return the blindfold to North Carolina’s statue of Lady Justice by voting to override the governor’s veto of Senate Bill 9. Raw statistical racial percentages (some might say racial quotas) do not belong in our criminal court system, whether regarding death penalty analysis or any other criminal cases.
Let’s stay with the facts of each case and remain blind as to race.
– article submitted
by Jeff Hunt

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