NC Racial Justice Act repeal approved by Senate - WSLS 10 NBC in Roanoke/Lynchburg Va

NC Racial Justice Act repeal approved by Senate

Posted: Updated:
RALEIGH, N.C. -

The state Senate agreed Wednesday to do away completely with North Carolina's Racial Justice Act.
    
The measure was included in a bill that includes several changes to capital punishment rules designed by supporters to restart executions after a more than six-year hiatus.
    
Senators voted 33-14 along party lines for the Republican-backed measure, which includes mostly technical changes to administering executions in the state.
    
In light of a state Supreme Court decision, the bill makes clear that doctors, pharmacists and nurses can participate in executions without fear of being punished by the state boards that regulate them. State public safety officials also would report regularly to legislators about how they're training execution teams to carry out lethal injections in a constitutionally lawful manner.
    
No one on North Carolina's death row has been executed since 2006 because of various legal appeals.
    
"We have a moral obligation" to carry out executions as the law requires, said Sen. Thom Goolsby, R-New Hanover, the bill's primary sponsor. "Victims' families have suffered far too long. It's time to stop the legal wrangling and give them the peace we owe them and they deserve."
    
Debate focused largely on repealing a 2009 law, already weakened by the GOP-controlled legislature last year, that created a method for death-row prisoners seeking life sentences on racial bias claims. The prisoners can use statistics and other evidence to persuade a judge that bias influenced their sentences.
    
Nearly all the 150-plus inmates on death row - including white and black prisoners - filed for reviews under the Racial Justice Act. That's proof, according to Racial Justice Act opponents and many local prosecutors, that the law is overbroad and was designed by Democrats four years ago to place a de facto moratorium on the death penalty. Republicans took control of the state legislature after the 2010 elections.
    
The Racial Justice Act is "nothing but an end run around capital punishment in North Carolina," Goolsby said.
    
Cumberland County Judge Gregory Weeks last year reduced the death sentences of four prisoners to life in prison because he ruled race played a role in prosecutors' decision to reject potential black jurors in their capital crimes. Three of the four prisoners are black, while the fourth is a Lumbee Indian.
    
Bill opponents said lawmakers want to ignore racial discrimination by prosecutors through repealing the law. A repeal, which would cancel pending reviews that haven't yet been heard by a judge, also will lead to additional legal fights about whether the prisoners can lose their rights to a hearing, said Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham.
    
McKissick called racial bias uncovered in Weeks' hearings to date "totally repugnant."
    
"The Racial Justice Act sent a strong message to the prosecutors of this state, that when you seek the death penalty that it should be free of racial bias,' McKissick said at a news conference before the floor debate. "We don't want to turn the hands of time backwards."
    
The Senate voted by a similar 33-14 margin against an amendment from Sen. Earline Parmon, D-Forsyth, that would have removed the Racial Justice Act repeal from the bill. Parmon said she wanted to give the chance for senators who support capital punishment and the Racial Justice Act to vote for the measure.
    
The Racial Justice Act "is not about guilt or innocence," she said during the debate. "It's about fairness in our court system."
    
The bill now goes to the House, where legislators joined with the Senate last year to override a veto from then-Gov. Beverly Perdue, a Democrat, on the 2012 bill to scale back the Racial Justice Act.
    
The 2012 law makes clear statistics alone cannot prove race was a significant factor in a death row inmate's conviction or sentence. The scope of data such as jury pool and death-penalty case statistics also was limited.

  • PoliticsMore>>

  • NC GOP Senate candidates face off as early voting begins

    NC GOP Senate candidates face off as early voting begins

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 11:15 PM EDT2014-04-24 03:15:49 GMT
    The four top-polling Republican Senate candidates, vying to unseat Democrat Kay Hagan, debated on Wednesday night in Raleigh, the night before early voting was set to begin. The primary is May 6, but voters can start heading to the polls on Thursday.During the half hour televised debate, State House of Representatives Speaker Thom Tillis of Charlotte said he was leading a conservative revolution in Raleigh, cutting regulations and taking credit for falling unemployment numbers. Tillis faces c...
    The four top-polling Republican Senate candidates, vying to unseat Democrat Kay Hagan, debated on Wednesday night in Raleigh, the night before early voting was set to begin. The primary is May 6, but voters can start heading to the polls on Thursday.During the half hour televised debate, State House of Representatives Speaker Thom Tillis of Charlotte said he was leading a conservative revolution in Raleigh, cutting regulations and taking credit for falling unemployment numbers. Tillis faces c...
  • Committee proposes rules for drone use in NC

    Committee proposes rules for drone use in NC

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 4:58 PM EDT2014-04-23 20:58:27 GMT
    A legislative committee approved a set of regulations that it hopes will calm people's fears about the use of drones while allowing the industry to flourish.
    A legislative committee approved a set of regulations that it hopes will calm people's fears about the use of drones while allowing the industry to flourish.
  • Republican NC Senate candidates meet in debate

    Republican NC Senate candidates meet in debate

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 2:24 PM EDT2014-04-23 18:24:44 GMT
    Thom Tillis largely shrugged off criticism about aspects of his legislative record from one of the three other candidates participating in their first television debate.
    Thom Tillis largely shrugged off criticism about aspects of his legislative record from one of the three other candidates participating in their first television debate.
  • Fire at Saw Mill in Bedford County is under investigation

    Fire at Saw Mill in Bedford County is under investigation

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 9:55 PM EDT2014-04-24 01:55:50 GMT
    A fire ata saw mill in Bedford County is under investigation. It happened thisafternoon around 5 at Central Virginia Pallet and Stake on Centerville Road.Bedford County's Fire Chief says there were no injuries, but the owner estimates the damages at about $75,000The chief says thefire is still burning, and it will likely burn for a few days, but it is contained.The cause of the fire is unknown, butit's believed to be accidental.
    A fire ata saw mill in Bedford County is under investigation. It happened thisafternoon around 5 at Central Virginia Pallet and Stake on Centerville Road.Bedford County's Fire Chief says there were no injuries, but the owner estimates the damages at about $75,000The chief says thefire is still burning, and it will likely burn for a few days, but it is contained.The cause of the fire is unknown, butit's believed to be accidental.
  • 29 Virginia High Schools on Personal Finance Top-100 List

    29 Virginia High Schools on Personal Finance Top-100 List

    Tuesday, April 22 2014 9:32 PM EDT2014-04-23 01:32:06 GMT
    29 schools in the Commonwealth, including many in our area, ranked the the nation's top 100 best high schools for personal finance instruction.
    29 schools in the Commonwealth, including many in our area, ranked the the nation's top 100 best high schools for personal finance instruction.
  • Franklin Co. Sheriff's Office investigating juvenile death

    Franklin Co. Sheriff's Office investigating juvenile death

    Franklin Co. Sheriff's Office investigating juvenile death

    Tuesday, April 22 2014 10:50 AM EDT2014-04-22 14:50:58 GMT
    Deputies were called to Double Oaks Lane in the Burnt Chimney community, where they found a seven-year-old boy with a gunshot wound.
    Deputies were called to Double Oaks Lane in the Burnt Chimney community, where they found a seven-year-old boy with a gunshot wound.
  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Mom bites off dog's ear to save daughter during attack

    Mom bites off dog's ear to save daughter during attack

    Tuesday, April 22 2014 2:49 PM EDT2014-04-22 18:49:19 GMT
    Image from CNN/KHOU-TVImage from CNN/KHOU-TV
    In a backyard in Alvin, swings a very lucky girl. Her name is Mackenzi Plass, or Kenzi for short, and she survived a dog attack and has undergone several surgeries."She'll be two and a half in May," said her very proud mother Chelsi Camp. "She's doing great. You wouldn't know it if you couldn't see."Mackenzi has scars on her face after the ordeal just weeks ago that put her mother's animal instincts to the test."You do whatever you can," said Camp. "I don't have physical strength at my side."...
    In a backyard in Alvin, swings a very lucky girl. Her name is Mackenzi Plass, or Kenzi for short, and she survived a dog attack and has undergone several surgeries."She'll be two and a half in May," said her very proud mother Chelsi Camp. "She's doing great. You wouldn't know it if you couldn't see."Mackenzi has scars on her face after the ordeal just weeks ago that put her mother's animal instincts to the test."You do whatever you can," said Camp. "I don't have physical strength at my side."...
  • Mom wins lawsuit against TSA after breast milk screening problems

    Mom wins lawsuit against TSA after breast milk screening problems

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 4:40 PM EDT2014-04-23 20:40:54 GMT
    A Southern California woman who was held at a Phoenix airport four years ago after refusing to have her breast milk X-rayed has reached a settlement with the Transportation Security Administration. Stacey
    A Southern California woman who was held at a Phoenix airport four years ago after refusing to have her breast milk X-rayed has reached a settlement with the Transportation Security Administration. Stacey
  • Owner of Raleigh 'Party Mansion' guilty of tax evasion

    Owner of Raleigh 'Party Mansion' guilty of tax evasion

    Monday, April 14 2014 4:07 PM EDT2014-04-14 20:07:04 GMT
    Claude Verbal II, who now lives in Miami, pleads guilty to a number of federal tax evasion charges.
    Claude Verbal II, who now lives in Miami, pleads guilty to a number of federal tax evasion charges.
Powered by WorldNow

WSLS 10, P.O. Box 10
Roanoke, VA 24022-0010

Telephone: 540.981.9110
Fax: 540.343.3157
Email: news@wsls.com

Can't find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.