Editorial – A Test of Racial Justice

Published: June 17, 2012

North Carolina’s Legislature is moving shamefully to gut the state’s 2009 Racial Justice Act. The statute is the first in the nation to allow death row inmates to have their sentence reduced to life without parole if they show that the sentence was tainted by racial bias.

Last year, the Legislature passed a bill to repeal the law, but Gov. Bev Perdue wisely vetoed it and the lawmakers failed to override the veto. She needs to show the same steadfastness and veto the new measure, which has already passed the State House and is expected to be approved by the Senate this week.

The bill would not repeal the Racial Justice Act, but would so severely limit the proof an inmate could use to show race bias as to render the law ineffective. It would disallow proof of discrimination based on the race of the victim, which is a major basis for finding racial bias in capital punishment in North Carolina and elsewhere.