Too Much Racial Justice In North Carolina?

June 19, 2012

In a victory over racial bias in the death penalty, Marcus Robinson's death sentence was reduced to life in prison in April 2012.

North Carolina lawmakers are trying to gut the historic Racial Justice Act.

When North Carolina passed the Racial Justice Act (RJA), it was a beautiful moment. A state with a long history of racism was vowing to face that legacy head on, by honestly confronting racial bias in death penalty cases.  I grew up in North Carolina and, believe me, this was needed.  It was also a remarkable political achievement and it made me proud to be from there.

Then the law, which allows the use of statistical evidence to prove racial bias in capital cases, was applied.

In the case of Marcus Robinson, a North Carolina judge found that “race was a materially, practically and statistically significant factor” in jury selection at Robinson’s trial, and that statistics showed widespread racial bias in other capital cases across the state at the same time. Robinson’s death sentence was reduced to life without parole.

North Carolina’s legislature swung swiftly into action. But instead of addressing these disturbing patterns of racial bias, North Carolina lawmakers attacked the law that exposed them. Under their proposed amendment, statistical evidence of systemic discrimination would no longer be enough to prove racial bias. The best way to make a problem go away, it seems, is to ignore evidence that it exists.

This proposal of course undermines the entire purpose of the RJA, and it has already passed by a veto-proof majority in the North Carolina House. If you are from NC take action to protect racial justice in North Carolina.