REGARDING REPEAL OF THE RACIAL JUSTICE ACT
Today, the NC General Assembly took a gigantic and tragic step backwards in eliminating racial prejudice in our criminal justice system. The goal of the Racial Justice Act was to ensure that when decisions were made by prosecutors to seek the death penalty or by juries to impose the death penalty that it would be done in an environment free of racial bias and prejudice. The changes made to the Racial Justice Act would prohibit a judge from even considering the race of the victim in determining whether racial bias was a factor in these cases.
Unfortunately, we are not yet a color-blind society and the views and prejudices people have relating to race is frequently a substantial factor in many death penalty cases. We know based upon statistics that have been developed, that in North Carolina if the victim is white and the defendant is black, it is 2 to 3 times more likely that the prosecutor will seek the death penalty, that the prosecutor will eliminate blacks from serving as jurors, and that juries in these situations are most likely to impose the death penalty.
It is regrettable that we have retreated from our commitment to restoring credibility and integrity to our criminal justice system by gutting the effectiveness of the Racial Justice Act, originally created as a tool to rid our courtrooms of racial discrimination. The Racial Justice Act was passed by both supporters and opponents of the death penalty, all of whom wanted to ensure that when the death penalty was imposed, it was free of racial bias and prejudice.
NC Legislative Black Caucus
Sen. Floyd B. McKissick Jr., Chair
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