The Racial Justice Act: GOP could repeal or amend landmark legislation

“The legislation has been heralded nationally as a leap for civil rights, notable especially for the South and a state with a history haunted by racial inequity. But erasing part or all of the statute is on the agenda for the new Republican majority when it takes hold of this legislative session on Wednesday. Although other priorities—balancing the budget and easing unemployment—are expected to take precedence, incoming House Majority Leader Paul “Skip” Stam, R-Wake, has said he’s pushing to repeal the Racial Justice Act.

In many districts, criticism of the Racial Justice Act helped lift Republicans into power. Days before the 2010 elections, the state Republican Party even distributed flyers falsely contending the law would free convicted murderers and rapists.

Opponents also claim the law is clogging courts with new litigation, at taxpayers’ expense. “The intent may have been fine, but the actual operation of this act is one that is essentially… a re-litigation of almost everybody on death row in North Carolina,” said Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake. “And we simply don’t have the resources to give somebody a sixth, seventh, eighth bite at the apple.”

But there’s no logjam to speak of, supporters say. Hearings on the 149 claims filed by death row inmates won’t begin until next week. Only a few cases have cleared the initial filing, but most of the appeals are still awaiting responses from prosecutors, said representatives with the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, whose attorneys are representing 40 of the prisoners. Judges will decide which cases will be heard. Lawyers handling the appeals wanted to consolidate many of the cases, but prosecutors have so far refused.”

Full article here: The Racial Justice Act: GOP could repeal or amend landmark legislation


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