North Carolina Racial Justice Act

Started by heidi salazar, July 02, 2009, 01:35:17 AM

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heidi salazar

**LOOKS ABOVE** OK that is funny!

Granny B

They'll be handing these out to many of the inmates:

The only thing better would be a Master Card. ;D
" Closure? Closure is a misused word in the English language.  There is no such thing as closure for the family of a murder victim.  There will never be any closure for the death of our loved ones until we are dead ourselves.  The families have a lifetime sentence of anguish and sadness." 
Susan Levy

heidi salazar

N.C. Governor Set To Sign Law On Race, Death Penalty

Posted: 10:46 am EDT August 11, 2009

RALEIGH, N.C. -- North Carolina will become only the second state in the country that allows defendants to try to prove race was a significant factor in a death sentence or in a prosecutor seeking the death penalty

Gov. Beverly Perdue is scheduled to sign the Racial Justice Act into law Tuesday morning.

The General Assembly passed the law last week. Kentucky is the only other state that allows statistical evidence to establish racial bias by prosecutors seeking or jurors rendering the death penalty.

The bill allows judges to consider whether statistical data show race was a key factor in putting a defendant on trial for his life or receiving a death penalty. A judge who agrees with the evidence could limit a sentence to life in prison without parole.


OMG - I think since a few years the US is beyond he racism-point. The media attention makes it impossible for racist court decisions. The opposite thing is correct.. the race card is used to reduce sentences.

Im not sure if theres a hell, but I believe in executed murderers.


OMG - I think since a few years the US is beyond he racism-point. The media attention makes it impossible for racist court decisions. The opposite thing is correct.. the race card is used to reduce sentences.

I would agree Michael..


N.C. takes aim at bias in death penalty

Racial Justice Act, signed by governor Tuesday, allows inmates to claim bias influenced death sentences.
By Gary L. Wright
Posted: Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2009

Gov. Bev Perdue on Tuesday signed a bill that will allow murder suspects and death-row inmates to try to prove racial bias was behind prosecutors' decision to seek the death penalty or jurors' decision to impose it.

North Carolina is the second state in the nation with a law designed to stop black defendants from being punished more severely than whites. Kentucky is the other state.

"I have always been a supporter of the death penalty, but I have always believed it must be carried out fairly," Perdue said. "The Racial Justice Act ensures that when North Carolina hands down our state's harshest punishment to our most heinous criminals - the decision is based on the facts and the law, not racial prejudice."

The governor said the Racial Justice Act aims to ensure that prosecutors and jurors are colorblind. It allows defendants to present statistical evidence that suggests racial bias may have played a role in their cases.

"While our criminal justice system will continue to have the death penalty, racial disparities have no place whatsoever in North Carolina's criminal justice system," Perdue said.

Death penalty critics have long argued that black suspects, particularly those who are poor, are more likely to get the death penalty than white suspects - especially when the person they kill is white.

Recent cases of prosecutorial misconduct in North Carolina involving black defendants helped fuel demands for reform. At least two black death row inmates have been exonerated after misconduct came to light.

Of 163 inmates now on North Carolina's death row, slightly more than half - 88 - are black. African Americans make up about 21 percent of the state's population.

"I'm convinced that race has played a role in the system," said Charlotte lawyer and death penalty expert Jim Cooney. "It's hard to believe it hasn't over the past 30 years.

"That doesn't mean that prosecutors are racists. There are any number of points where race could have an influence. It could be in the jury selection process or in the decision of the jury."

An Observer investigation in 2000 found that those who killed whites in the Carolinas were more likely to wind up on death row than those who killed blacks. The paper also found that blacks who killed whites were three times more likely to face execution as murder suspects generally.

The new law will allow murder suspects at trial, as well those already sentenced to death, to present evidence of bias.

It would also allow judges, for the first time, to consider statistical evidence that suggests race played a key factor in putting a disproportionate number of people from a racial group on trial for their lives or on death row. If the judge agrees with the evidence, prosecutors could be prohibited from seeking a death sentence. A judge could also overturn a death sentence on appeal and impose life without parole.

Courts have not considered statistical evidence suggesting racial discrimination since 1987, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that such evidence is not relevant to individual cases. The justices, however, said states could enact laws to allow it.

"This is a very auspicious and also historic occasion for the state of North Carolina," said Rep. Larry Womble, D-Forsyth, one of the legislation's sponsors. "This is about justice for our state, and North Carolina is leading the nation in this particular area. ... We want the world to know that we will be fair and objective in this area."

Said the Rev. William Barber, president of North Carolina's NAACP "This Racial Justice Act is not about trying to let criminals go, as some have absurdly suggested. ... The injustice within the application of the death penalty is pandemic. By passing the Racial Justice Act we have infused antibiotic treatment to a system that is diseased with the infection of racism."

Mecklenburg District Attorney Peter Gilchrist said nobody should be prosecuted because of their race. But he worries that the new law will lead to unfounded bias claims and more work for his already overburdened prosecutors.

"We make our decisions based on the facts - not on the race of the defendant or the victim," Gilchrist said. "Race has nothing to do with our decisions."

The law was opposed by district attorneys, sheriffs and victims' advocates who said it would make death penalty prosecutions too difficult. North Carolina has not had an execution in nearly three years.

"Make no mistake, this law has little to do with justice and nothing to do with guilt or innocence," said Senate Minority Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham. "For the first time in North Carolina, the statistical composition of the inmates on death row will outweigh the facts of a particular case in the determination of punishment. Families of the victims of the most heinous crimes will now be subjected to the further delay of true justice for them and their murdered loved ones."

But House Speaker Joe Hackney, D-Orange, said the law keeps the death penalty while adding a condition that tries to ensure it is applied evenly.

"I've spent most of my life in courtrooms across North Carolina, and I have seen the subtle impact of race in our courtrooms," Hackney, an attorney, said. "This opens the courtroom door for those who believe that they can show that it had an impact on their case."

A 2001 study in North Carolina found that the likelihood of murder suspects' receiving a death sentence was 3.5 times higher for those who killed whites than for those who killed blacks and other minorities.

Allegations of racial bias have surfaced in death penalty cases across the Carolinas:

Two white jurors reportedly threw around the "n" word during the Lancaster County, S.C., trail of Louis Truesdale. According to a statement by the only black juror on the panel, the men made comments "to the effect that this n----- had to fry." The black juror swore out her statement the day before Truesdale's December 1998 execution. The S.C. Supreme Court, without comment, declined to spare his life.

After the 1992 capital trial of Kenneth Bernard Rouse, a woman accused a white male juror of using racial slurs while recounting the Randolph County case. The juror allegedly said blacks "don't care about living as much as whites do" and that black men rape white women so they can brag to their friends. A judge dismissed the allegations, noting that the juror said during jury selection that he considered blacks his equals.

Since North Carolina's last execution in August 2006, successful death penalty prosecutions have nearly come to a halt and public support for executions has waned. Just one convicted killer was sent to death row last year.

A November 2005 poll from Elon University found that 64 percent of the state's adults supported capital punishment. The same poll found this March that 58 percent supported the death penalty.

Cooney said judges and lawyers should be given the tools, as the new law does, to determine if race played a role in a death-penalty case. He expressed concern about small counties where the death penalty is used a lot and the juries are sometimes all-white.

"The statistics show that race of the victim is a strong factor in whether the death penalty is imposed," he said.

Mecklenburg, considering its size, has relatively few killers - five - on death row. Three are black. Two are white.

Johnston County, a rural county southeast of Raleigh with roughly a fifth of Mecklenburg's population, has seven people on death row. Four of them are black.

Ken Rose, a staff attorney with the Center for Death Penalty Litigation in Durham, said some critics of the Racial Justice Act are upset because they think the law will end the death penalty. That, he said, is not true.

"This is a remarkable piece of legislation that provides tools to expose racial discrimination in the use of the death penalty," Rose said. "It's a needed reform." The Associated Press and Staff Writers Ames Alexander and Cleve R. Wootson Jr. contributed.


heidi salazar

This case is a result of this new law!!

No death penalty in N.C. woman's death

The Associated Press
October 1, 2009

A North Carolina man accused of killing one of six women whose decomposing bodies were found dumped in a rural area outside Rocky Mount will not face the death penalty, prosecutors said Thursday.

Antwan Maurice Pittman would be spared if convicted of murder in the strangling death of 29-year-old Taraha Shenice Nicholson, according to the Edgecombe County clerk of superior court.

Thirty-one-year-old Pittman was charged with first-degree murder last month. Nicholson's body was found in March.

Pittman's court-appointed defense attorney Thomas Moore said his client didn't meet any criteria necessary to qualify for capital punishment. Defendants typically must be accused of multiple homicides, especially heinous, atrocious or cruel homicides and also have prior murder convictions, Moore said. Pittman doesn't meet these requirements but he is a convicted sex offender.

Investigators have released very few details in the case and say they are still investigating five unsolved murders and three missing persons cases that might be connected.

Moore said he's pleased with the rapid pace of the trial, which is scheduled to begin in May. Moore declined to discuss details of the case, saying not much information was available yet but that evidence was starting to "trickle in."

"We entered a not guilty plea today. At this point we plan to pursue that this man is innocent," he said.

Moore said his client was relieved the death penalty was taken off the table. "He's as happy as he can be, but you know he's still locked up."

Moore said his client is innocent because, "from what I have seen and from my independent investigation I'm not seeing anything that tells me otherwise."

heidi salazar

NC DA agrees to delay 4 cases

District Attorney Jim O'Neill has agreed to allow four pending first-degree murder cases to be delayed until after a study on the death penalty and race is completed next summer.

Motions in the four murder cases were filed under the Racial Justice Act, and a judge in Forsyth Superior Court was scheduled to hear those motions yesterday.

But O'Neill was able to reach an agreement with Mark Rabil, an assistant capital defense attorney, to postpone the cases, which included one set to start in January.

The motions were the first in Forsyth County to be filed under the Racial Justice Act, which Gov. Bev Perdue signed in August. The law allows defendants to use statistics and other evidence to prove racial bias in the application of the death penalty.

In the motions, defense attorneys asked that the start of the trial in each case be delayed until a $500,000 study being done by two law professors at Michigan State University is finished in August. The motions also asked for discovery information from prosecutors on what criteria they used in pursuing the death penalty and whether race was a significant factor.

O'Neill said yesterday that he has always been a strong supporter of the death penalty, but because capital cases are so serious, they should be approached cautiously.

"People can believe in different sides of this argument," O'Neill said. "I believe in one side. I also believe that this community deserves a cautious approach to every death-penalty case. It's important that we move cautiously and slowly before deciding to put someone's life in jeopardy."

Last week, O'Neill was sworn in as interim district attorney, replacing Tom Keith, who retired Nov. 30.

Rabil, who has had sharp disagreements with Keith over his handling of racially charged cases, praised O'Neill's decision.

"Certainly, there has been the perception over the last three or four decades that perhaps the district attorney's office was not sensitive to issues involving race, and I think Jim has taken a good step here in letting discovery go forward on these cases," he said.

The decision to delay immediately affects the case of Gerald Spease, whose murder trial was scheduled to start Jan. 11. Spease, who is accused of setting a fire June 17, 2006, that killed Tammy Dianne Wilson, faces the death penalty if convicted. A motion to delay the trial under the Racial Justice Act was filed late last week.

Motions had also been filed in the following cases:

□ Mikal Deen Mahdi, who is on death row in South Carolina. Mahdi is accused of killing a gas-station clerk in Winston-Salem in 2004 during a crime spree that started in Virginia.

□ Alfredo Garza Ayala, who was charged with first-degree murder last year in the death of his wife, Linda Nelly Munoz-Rivera, 42, of 108 Chestnut Trail.

□ Amar Mushar Wilson Sr., who was charged with first-degree murder in the death of his 2-year-old son.

O'Neill said he believes that the pursuit of the death penalty by Forsyth County prosecutors in the past has been racially neutral and that it is unfair to compare Forsyth with other counties.

However, he also said that it didn't make sense to try a capital murder case in January until prosecutors and defense attorneys know the results of the death-penalty study.

"As a criminal lawyer, a capital case is the most serious, gut-wrenching trial that we take part in, and in the end, justice is the most important thing," O'Neill said. "And if it takes a couple of months before we can pick back up, if that's what justice is, what justice requires, so be it."

heidi salazar

Toward justice

There's little middle ground to be found in North Carolina's Racial Justice Act, which allows defense attorneys to use racial bias as an argument against the pursuit and imposition of the death penalty. Jim O'Neill, Forsyth County's new district attorney, supports the death penalty and says that its use has been "racially neutral" in the 13 years he has worked in the office. But, setting a new spirit of cooperation for his office, he agreed last week to delay a death-penalty case to await the results of a major study about capital punishment and race in North Carolina.

"It would be disingenuous to the public to schedule another capital case before the study is completed," O'Neill told the Journal.

He agreed to delay the case of Gerald Spease, whose murder trial was scheduled to start next month. Spease, charged with setting a fire June 17, 2006, that killed Tammy Dianne Wilson, faces the death penalty if convicted. Mark Rabil, an assistant capital defender, had moved to delay the trial, citing the Racial Justice Act that the state legislature passed in August. The Spease case involves a black defendant and victim. Rabil said he may have argued for a delay by saying that in similar, more heinous cases involving white defendants, the death penalty has not been in play.

Rabil also sought delays in three other murder cases. Those cases had not been put on the court calendar. O'Neill has no plans to do so until the study is done. He has scheduled the Spease case for September.

The $500,000 study being done by 2 law professors from Michigan State University is scheduled to be finished in August.

Rabil said that O'Neill is one of the toughest prosecutors in the state, but is willing "to take a good hard look at the issues."

O'Neill obviously realized that Rabil may well have prevailed in court with his motion to delay the cases. But other prosecutors, responding to the demands of their pro-death-penalty constituents, may have still waged the fight. O'Neill's predecessor, Tom Keith, was an outspoken critic of the Racial Justice Act, which Gov. Bev Perdue signed into law in August.

O'Neill, whom Perdue appointed to serve out the rest of Keith's term after he retired last month, is being criticized for his decision to delay the Spease case. But we believe that his action was pragmatic and fair given the racial tension over some criminal cases in Forsyth County.

The 1984 Deborah Sykes murder case, particularly the arrest and convinction of Darryl Hunt, created a long-running racial division in Winston-Salem. Sykes was white and Hunt, wrongly convicted of her murder, is black. Rabil finally won Hunt's release in 2003, after DNA testing led to the real killer. In response to that case and others, Forsyth County Reps. Larry Womble and Earline Parmon introduced the Racial Justice Act.

The act, and the study, could lead the way toward resolving longstanding questions about racial bias in the criminal justice system. The process will require a cooperative spirit from prosecutors -- like that shown by O'Neill last week.

(source: Editorial, Winston-Salem Journal)

heidi salazar

Narrowing race bias test in NC death cases sought

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- Republican legislators argued Thursday for restricting a new law that made North Carolina the second state after Kentucky to allow death-penalty defendants to claim statistical data indicates racial bias tips the scales of justice against them.

The state's Racial Justice Act was adopted last year after supporters said it was needed to prevent black defendants from being punished more harshly what whites. But Republicans argued the law should be altered to prevent it from being used in pending cases before a conviction.

The widow of slain Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officer Jeff Shelton urged state legislators to revisit the issue this year. Jennifer Shelton said at a news conference Thursday that the need for a revision was shown two weeks ago when a Superior Court judge postponed the death-penalty trial of her husband's accused killer until October.

The judge said that because the law is so new, he felt he had to give the suspect's lawyers time to gather information on what role race may play in North Carolina prosecutors seeking or juries imposing the death penalty, The Charlotte Observer reported.

"I disagree with the basis of the Racial Justice Act. I believe that a person is tried for their crime and not for the color of their skin," said Shelton, who is white. "A defendant may argue and win a claim of racial discrimination under current law. Therefore, I do not support giving criminals another tool to use to get away with the crimes they have committed."

"I'm standing here because this hit me personally," Shelton said.

Demeatrius Montgomery, 28, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the 2007 slayings of Shelton and Officer Sean Clark, who were both shot in the head after responding to a domestic disturbance in Charlotte.

Mecklenburg Assistant District Attorney Marsha Goodenow said race is not a factor in the decisions prosecutors make to seek a death sentence.

House Minority Whip Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, said Republicans will attempt to introduce a measure during the legislative session that started this week to narrow the law to considering race only after a guilty verdict. But the GOP proposal is unlikely to advance this year.

The decision to join Kentucky came last year after months of contentious debate and House and Senate votes along party lines. Any effort to introduce new legislation also faces multiple procedural hurdles lawmakers impose on themselves to focus work this year on passing adjustments to the state budget.

"We're not going to go around the rules to get into the Racial Justice Act again. This session is to focus on the budget, not to go in with bills that will be controversial," said House Majority Leader Hugh Holliman, D-Davidson. "We'll be glad to listen, but unless there's more than one case out there, it can wait until January" when the Legislature's long legislative session begins.

The law was opposed by district attorneys, sheriffs and victims' advocates who said it would make death penalty prosecutions too difficult. North Carolina has not had an execution since August 2006.

Advocates pointed to research such as a 1990 report by the U.S. General Accounting Office that said dozens of studies have found "a pattern of evidence indicating racial disparities in the charging, sentencing, and imposition of the death penalty."

In one case cited by supporters, then-Gov. Mike Easley commuted the death sentence of Robert Bacon Jr. to life in prison in 2001. An all-white jury had sentenced him to death for stabbing his lover's husband to death. The woman, who is white and who lured her husband to the spot where he was killed, avoided a death sentence and has since been paroled.

State NAACP president William Barber said the law will remain a target of Republican opposition.

"There are some people who will never want to acknowledge that we have racial disparities in America," Barber said.

heidi salazar

Five death row inmates seek new sentences, claim racial bias

Five death row inmates filed motions this morning challenging their death sentences on the basis of racial bias, the first test of a ground-breaking law passed last year by the state legislature that allows inmates to challenge their sentences on the basis of race.

All five inmates -- Kenneth Rouse in Randolph County, Guy LeGrande in Stanly County, Shawn Bonnett in Martin County, Jeremy Murrell in Forsyth County, and Jathiyah Al-Bayyinah of Davie County -- are black men convicted of killing white victims. Rouse and LeGrande had all-white juries sentence them to death.

The 159 prisoners on North Carolina's death row must make such claims by Aug. 10, the day before the anniversary of the signing of the Racial Justice Act law. Adopted over the objections of prosecutors, some law enforcement organizations and victims rights advocates, the law is designed to combat racial disparities in death sentences and is one of only two of its kind in the country.

The five men are looking to have their sentences changed to life in prison.

The law allows defendants in death penalty cases and death row inmates to challenge prosecutions on grounds of bias. It also allows judges to consider statistics and trends of racial disparities in death sentences to change a death sentence to life in prison without parole or to stop prosecutors from seeking capital punishment at the outset.

Similar filings from other death row inmates are expected in coming days. The appeals will lean heavily on a recent study by Michigan State College of Law professors that found that race played a role in death row convictions.

The study done by Catherine Grosso and Barbara O'Brien found that more than 40 percent of defendants on North Carolina's death row were sentenced to death by a jury that was either all-white or included only one person of color. The researchers also found that in selection of juries, prosecutors statewide struck qualified blacks from the potential jury pool at more than twice the rate of whites.

In addition, they found that in cases with at least one white victim, a defendant is 2.6 times more likely to be sentenced to death than if the case does not involve a white victim.

Read more:


Someone needs to kick NC in the ass..  :-\
"..the death of any public servant or innocent is a tragedy... the death of a murderer is a mere statistic..."  -63Wildcat


heidi salazar

Lawyers for death row inmates request case consolidation

Lawyers for several death row inmates seeking to have their death sentences set aside because of racial bias claims want to have one judge decide all their cases.

The request for consolidation comes the day after five death row inmates, all black men accused of killing white victims, filed motions under the Racial Justice Act passed last year by the N.C. General Assembly. The inmates are looking to have their execution sentences commuted to sentences of life in prison. The law, one of the first in the nation, will allow judges to consider whether racial discrimination played a part in some murder defendants receiving the death penalty over others.

Lawyers for three of the five inmates filed their request for consolidation today with the N.C. Supreme Court, which has the ability to assign all the cases to one Superior Court judge in the state.
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More death row inmates are expected to file similar claims of racial bias in coming days to meet an Aug. 10 deadline for appeals. North Carolina currently has 159 inmates on death row. No one has been executed in the state since 2006 as the courts and legislature work through legal issues surrounding lethal injection, the method of execution North Carolina uses, whether doctors can assist in executions and other issues surrounding the death penalty.

The consolidation could save money, by having one judge decide the similar claims, according to Malcolm "Tye" Hunter, director of the Durham-based non-profit Center for Death Penalty Litigation.

“Having the statewide issues decided in an orderly and centralized way is more efficient and will save our state money and save our judges and lawyers courtroom time,” said Hunter.

Attempts to coordinate with the N.C. Attorney General's Office and prosecutors around the state to streamline the litigation have been unsuccessful, according to a press release from the Center for Death Penalty Litigation. The AG's office could not be reached immediately Wednesday afternoon to offer comment on the requests for consolidating the Racial Justice Act cases.

Read more:


N.C. Inmates Seek Death Penalty Relief

Almost two-thirds of the inmates on North Carolina's death row have appealed their execution sentences under the state's new Racial Justice Act, officials say.

Tuesday was the deadline for death row inmates to seek to have their death sentences converted to life without parole under the new law, and 119 of the state's 159 inmates facing execution had applied, The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer reported.

Under the law, one of only two in the country, death row inmates and defendants in death penalty cases can challenge prosecutions on grounds of bias.

It also says judges may consider statistics and anecdotal trends of racial disparities in death sentences to change a death sentence to life in prison without parole.

Courts have repeatedly been called on to address the issue of racial discrimination in jury selection.

The Racial Justice Act allows judges to consider statistical evidence in deciding if bias occurred.

But prosecutors say statistics cannot be considered in a vacuum.

"The accusations are that somehow because a jury was all white, it was racist and I don't know how you get to that conclusion," Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby said.

heidi salazar

Tuesday was the deadline for death row inmates to seek to have their death sentences converted to life without parole under the new law, and 119 of the state's 159 inmates facing execution had applied, The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer reported.

Up that number to 135!

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