North Carolina Republicans have sent a bill to Gov. Bev Perdue (D) that effectively voids a law that allowed death row inmates to have their punishment reduced to life in prison if statistics showed that they were sentenced to die because of racism.
The governor vetoed a similar bill last year that would completely voided the Racial Justice Act, but this time Republicans were joined by five conservative Democrats, giving them a veto-proof majority.
“What they’ve done is very seriously gutted the Racial Justice Act,” Rep. Mickey Michaux (D) told WTVD.
Instead of undoing the law completely, the new bill prevents inmates from using statistics alone to prove there was a racial bias in their sentencing. It also limits statistics to a limited time frame and statistical evidence would only be available for the area the crime occurred.
“The most important part of the Racial Justice Act has been destroyed and has been significantly limited,” NCCU Law Professor Irving Joyner explained.
But many Republican lawmakers had hoped to repeal the unique death penalty bias law altogether.
“Although I would prefer to see the Racial Justice Act erased from the books entirely, the sensible reforms included in this bill will preserve justice for more than 100 North Carolina families whose loved ones’ lives were brutally taken,” State Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said in a statement.
About 25 organizations gathered outside the General Assembly in Raleigh on Thursday to protest the Republicans for passing legislation that they say attack “vulnerable groups.” In addition to gutting the Racial Justice Act, measures include legalizing fracking, cutting education funds and essentially blocking the federal Help America Vote Act.
They also struck down a plan that would have compensated women who were victims of forced sterilization in North Carolina.
“If you can take the General Assembly and put it under a political MRI, and study the systematic impact, you would find the General Assembly is mean-spirited toward the poor, minorities, African Americans, and women … intentionally,” NAACP NC President Rev. William Barber said.
Watch this video from WTVD, broadcast June 21, 2012.