North Carolina NAACP Statement on Repeal of the Racial Justice Act
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 4, 2013
For More Information: Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, President, 919-394-8137
Mrs. Amina J. Turner, Executive Director, 919-682-4700
For Media Assistance: Rob Stephens, Field Secretary, 336-577-9335
NC Senate Votes to Restart Racially Biased Death Penalty
Forty-five years ago today, the world lost one of its greatest prophetic leaders of the modern age. On April 4, 1968, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot down on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, in the middle of his most ambitious vision to date: the Poor People's Campaign. Two years ago, on the 43rd anniversary of Dr. King's brutal murder, the NC General Assembly chose to "honor" his legacy by introducing a bill that gutted the Racial Justice Act of its strongest provisions that attempted to rid racial bias from the application of capital punishment in NC.
This General Assembly seems to have a disposition to introducing its most radical and blatantly racist legislation around Dr. King's last day on earth. The NC Senate's decision to pass an extreme piece of legislation yesterday is disturbing. They want to simultaneously cut current protections against discrimination under RJA while speeding up and making it easier to kill people.
The language used by the proponents of the legislation is equally disturbing and should offend all people of conscience. For Sen. Thom Goolsby to question the character of one of North Carolina's heroes Darryl Hunt reveals a mean spirit muddying his mindset. Darryl Hunt spent 19 years in prison for a rape and murder he did not commit because of a criminal justice system deeply poisoned with the same racial bias targeted by the RJA. If it were not for the vote of one juror, Darryl Hunt would have been put to death, and not be able to stand and fight for justice today.
And it is hard to fathom how an elected official, Senator Wesley Meredith, is so seemingly bound to a divisive ideology that he can repeatedly refer to Judge Gregory Weeks as the "minority judge."
This rhetoric would not be so concerning unless it directly influenced legislation tied to a regressive ideology trying to return North Carolina to the days when African Americans were treated as less than human, and treated attacks on their bodies and humanity as natural and acceptable in our society.
Five Reasons Legislators Should Reject New Efforts to Repeal the Racial Justice Act
1) The Racial Justice Act was passed with the support of proponents and opponents of the death penalty. All agreed that racial bias has no place in the application of the ultimate punishment of death.
2) Support for the Racial Justice Act is not an endorsement of violence or a sign that anyone is "soft on crime." Criminal justice enforcement is only strengthened when the system confronts racial bias directly and attempts to rid it from its practices.
3) Two Superior Court judges in North Carolina examined the law and evidence. The first found the RJA constitutional. And the second, the Cumberland County Superior Court, examined the comprehensive evidence presented to it by both sides for several months and found that race played a significant role in the death sentence of the first RJA petitioner, Marcus Robinson, and changed his death sentence to life in prison without parole. The Court found what virtually every researcher who has studied the death penalty process has shown: racism infects much of this system and its ultimate punishment--the death penalty.
4) We live in a state where five men have been exonerated from death row since 1999, who would have been murdered by the state if the system had only worked faster. ALL were charged with the murders of white victims, which is the strongest indicator of whether a defendant will be sentenced to death.
5) All the evidence shows that the death penalty system is flawed with racial bias. It is bizarre and unthinkable that legislators are striving to maintain the status quo of racism in the application of the death penalty and steal a tool from the courts to address this abomination.
Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.