RACE: Supporters Re-Affirm Importance of North Carolina's Racial Justice Act in Face of Prosecutors' Challenges
Leaders from North Carolina's civil rights groups, such as the NAACP, and from the defense bar have re-affirmed the need for the state's Racial Justice Act, which was passed in 2009. The Act allows death row inmates to challenge their death sentences using data from statistical studies of racial bias within the state. The North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys is attempting to have the law repealed because they say it threatens the entire death penalty system. Tye Hunter from the Center for Death Penalty Litigation said that some of the academic studies being used under the Act show clear patterns of racial bias in the state’s capital punishment system, including exclusion of qualified jurors on the basis of race. Moreover, he noted, "We hadn't had an execution for three years before the Racial Justice Act was even passed. So the moratorium on the death penalty, I think, has to do with other issues.” Two Racial Justice Act cases are currently underway in state courts, though one is currently on hold. In the active case, prosecutors have repeatedly sought continuances and have unsuccessfully tried to have the assigned Superior Court judge, Greg Weeks, an African-American, removed from the case.