On August 5, the North Carolina senate passed a bill allowing pre-trial defendants and death-row inmates to challenge the death penalty process through the use of statistical studies. The Racial Justice Act allows a defendant facing a capital trial or an inmate sentenced to death to use evidence showing a pattern of racial disparity as a way of challenging racial injustice in the death penalty. Prosecutors would then have the opportunity to rebut the claim that the statistical disparities indicate racial bias. If proven, a judge could overturn the death sentence or prevent prosecutors from seeking the death penalty. Sen. Floyd McKissick (D-Durham) (pictured), the chief sponsor of the bill in the Senate, said, “[The law] is critically needed to correct any type of conduct that might be impermissible when it comes to the imposition of the death penalty.” The House had passed the Racial Justice Act earlier. Governor Beverly Purdue is expected to sign the bill into law.

(J. Romoser, “Racial Justice Act passes, now goes to Purdue,” Winston-Salem Journal, Aug. 6, 2009). See Recent Legislation and Race.