North Carolina Governor Upholds Racial Justice Act, Calling Bias "Unacceptable"

North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue vetoed the bill that would have repealed the state's Racial Justice Act that was passed in 2009. The Act allows death row inmates to appeal their death sentences based on statistical studies showing racial bias. In issuing the veto, the governor, who supports the death penalty, said, “I am vetoing Senate Bill 9 for the same reason that I signed the Racial Justice Act two years ago: it is simply unacceptable for racial prejudice to play a role in the imposition of the death penalty in North Carolina.”  State courts have only recently begun to hear the first appeals filed under the Racial Justice Act. The Act provides that a death row inmate who receives a reprieve through a racial-discrimination challenge will receive a sentence of life without parole.  The Governor also added, "[B]ecause the death penalty is the ultimate punishment, it is essential that it be carried out fairly and that the process not be infected with prejudice based on race." Civil rights leaders and some family members of murder victims had met with the governor and encouraged her to veto the repeal, which was passed after significant changes in the legislature in 2010.

("Perdue vetoes repeal of Racial Justice Act," News & Observer, December 14, 2011.) See Race and Recent Legislative Activity.