North Carolina Repeals Law Protecting Death Row Inmates from Racial Discrimination


The Racial Justice Act doesn't sound like the kind of law that you repeal, but that's exactly what happened this week in North Carolina.  CNN has more on the disheartening news out of the Tar Heel State:

North Carolina's governor says he agreed to repeal a law that allowed inmates to challenge their death sentences on racial grounds because it effectively banned capital punishment in the state.

North Carolina legislators barred death sentences "sought or obtained on the basis of race" in 2009, when both houses of the state General Assembly were under Democratic control.

The, legislation, known as the Racial Justice Act, allowed condemned convicts to use statistical analysis to argue that race played a role in their sentencing.

Republicans in the state legislature had already watered down the law last year, over the veto of then-Governor Bev Perdue, a Democrat.  Republican Pat McCrory, North Carolina's current governor, said in a statement Wednesday that the act "created a judicial loophole to avoid the death penalty."

As CNN noted in its report, around 53 percent of North Carolina's death row inmates are black, while roughly 40 percent are white, despite African-Americans constituting only 22 percent of the overall population.


  1. terry says

    I have to go with NC on this one. Statistics do not tell me if a person did the crime he/she is accused of. If they have a fair trial and are convicted then they face the punishment. Don’t tell me about the racial breakdown of the state: tell me if a specific person did a specific crime. Statistics didn’t cause a criminal to pull the trigger. An individual choice was involved so go ahead and punish the individual otherwise every sentence ever handed down will be challenged. We can not have a quota system for acquittals to satisfy statistical analysis.

  2. Randy says

    Can someone explain to me why we make the Paula Deens of the world apologize for remarks, when we permit states to murder people using the same mindset?

  3. FakeOutrage says

    Terry you are worse than an idiot. You are an idiot who thinks he’s intelligent. The reason laws like this are ever implemented is because “statistically” (I know that’s a big word for you to digest) black have been given harsher penalties, including the death sentence than whites who do the exact same crime. How do you propose to eliminate that discrepancy? or it simply “too bad”.

  4. DannyEastVillage says

    Terry, ample evidence has been produced over the years of racial bias in the application of the death penalty. And finding that evidence online isn’t difficult. This is the biggest (though not the only) reason for the uptick in action in various states to neutralize the death penalty.

  5. Malcolm says

    Elections matter. The Tea Party took over NC in 2010 and are determined to destroy this beautiful state. You snooze on Election Day, We all lose.

  6. David Hearne says

    fakeoutrage – I defy you to show me two cases which are identical. I have listened to endless garbage about race and justice, all backed out of statistics. Martin O’Malley most recently declared that the death penalty was “inherently racist” because blacks are disproportionately represented on death row.

    Blacks are disproportionately on death row, because black disproportionately commit crimes in every category except DUI. Blacks are 16% of Florida’s population and commit 54% of the murders. That’s not racism, it’s a major defect in the black subculture and until black people accept responsibility for that, the disparity will continue.

  7. David Hearne says

    Terry, ample evidence has been produced over the years of racial bias in the application of the death penalty…..
    Posted by: DannyEastVillage

    Ah yes, the internet version of an “as everybody knows” argument.

    Florida is 16% black and blacks commit over half of all the murders in the state. That’s not racism, it’s a defective subculture whose members and leaders refuse to correct and improve, preferring as they do to try to blame white people for all of their problems.

  8. Jim in MN says

    And the hypocrisy of the so-called “Pro-Life” Republicans rears its head. Let’s get this straight “Every Life is sacred” except….

  9. jjasonham says

    So according to David Hearne, black people deserve to die because they’re the ones who commit all the crimes. Those black people should take responsibility for being inherently violent! Forget the fact that their “subculture” lives within a larger culture that includes his own. The death penalty (and prisons in general) is much more worthy of financial investment than, say, EDUCATION AND ARTS. A very well know antidote to the violence he says came out of nowhere or burst out of someone’s genetic code!

  10. Rich says

    I believe the death penalty is categorically wrong, so some of you may discount what I say.

    Given that, even though each crime is unique, the law groups them into categories. In the category of capital murder, the question is whether juries recommend death more often for those who are convicted based on the perpetrator’s race. This is only part of the story, for one would need to include in the pool those who were allowed to plead to avoid the death penalty, as for example Gerald Loughner did in the Tucson massacre.

    Any way you slice it, equal protection is hard to achieve when you’re wielding the power of life and death.

  11. Dueling Potatoes says

    On basic moral grounds I don’t like the death penalty.

    On purely financial grounds, it’s a huge waste of money.

    I know for certain that blacks are sentenced for other crimes more severely than whites, and that this certainly extends to the death penalty.

    I also know that we have way, way too many American citizens sitting in prison; we have a much higher percentage of our population in prison than ANYONE else.

    So do I care that blacks are sentenced more severely ? Yes, but not as much as I care that our system is corrupt, evil, unfair, does little to rehabilitate, and tends towards being punitive just for the sake of pissing away taxpayer dollars.

    When I lived in NC, I knew a LOT of amazing, good, kind people. Most of them were old and black. Just sayin’.

  12. says

    Terry is right all that should matter is worthier the accused committed the crime thug lover like Jim and Danny can go suck a lemon the people of NC want the death penalty and we live in a democratic society. Btw blacks are on death row more because they commit the majority of violent crimes in that state in other state with less blacks and thus less black criminals you see mostly or even only white inmates on death row. And who should a child killer, serial killer, or rapist murderer be allowed to get off only of “statistics” when there is absolutely no evidance of any misconduct in their case itself?

  13. terry says

    It amazes me that only a couple comments speak to the guilt or innocence of the accused. Lee is correct in recognizing that to look at anything other than guilt would be allowing criminals a get out of jail card based on the need to balance statistical data. Reforming the criminal justice system is another issue. Judging a case on ANYTHING other than its merits is wrong. That is why Justice is blindfolded. Just the facts of each case should be judged, not a judgment arranged to fit a quota. Why does a sentence based on the facts of a case scare people so?

  14. ratbastard says

    If you go to a state with an almost entirely white population like Maine or Vermont, you’ll see mostly white convicted murderers. There’s a caveat: the 2 states I mentioned also have the lowest overall and violent crime rates in the U.S., and very low homicide rates, even though firearms are also readily available and many if not most people own them.

    Go to a state with a black population that’s the national average or higher [some southern and border states have black populations from 25-30%] and you’ll see the majority of convicted murders are black, almost always male, even though the black male population as a percentage of the overall population, is less than half the total black population of the state; in other words far less than half the population of the state. And these states also have the highest overall violent crime rates in the U.S., along with a few western states with small black populations.

    THE FBI/DOJ consistently releases statistics year after year that show black males are responsible for over 50% of all homicides in the U.S., even though nationally they make up roughly 5-6% of the population.

    Dysfunctional upbringing [usually involving a lousy home life being raised by a single mom with issues of her own], violent and dysfunctional subculture, and heavy involvement in drug trafficking are the #1 causes.


    Go to any prison and you’ll find out the vast majority of the inmates, especially the violent ones, come from single parent [usually mom] backgrounds and raised in dysfunctional environments. This is regardless of the ‘race’ of the inmate. There is a clear and direct correlation.

    NY Senator Daniel Moynahan was 100% correct when he predicted in 1965 what was going to happen when welfare and social entitlements got out of control and when more and more children, especially boys, grow up without a father, raised by single moms and grandmas. This is the case for the majority of black boys by a margin greater than 2/3rds, and it’s also become and becoming high among whites, Hispanics, although still the minority.

    My opinion is black people were used for a social experiment by leftist ‘progressives’ with government policies that date from the 60s and 70s. These policies deliberately marginalized men, and encouraged broken families, with women as sole head of households. The experiment has failed badly, but too many people have vested interests in keeping the continuing the game and status quo.

  15. David Hearne says

    jjasonham – If you are going to participate in discussions with adults, you should conduct yourself as an adult. I didn’t say that black people commit all the crimes, I was very specific about their representation in crime. I said nothing about their genetic code, I referred to their subculture. Nothing you said refuted anything I said.

  16. David Hearne says

    jamal49 – And that’s why you can’t name a single neighborhood that became better when it became majority black. You are like a fat man eating candy cars and wondering why he can’t lose weight. You cannot accept the the black subculture and not white people is the cause of the problems in the black community.

  17. anon says

    One of the main issues here is bad representation in court. Poor black defendants in death penalty cases often have to rely on public defenders. This results in very rushed defense proceedings at trial, and very limited appeals. So, for essentially equal crimes, the aggravating factors leading to the death penalty are not properly contested in court. The way to compare statistically would be death row population splits compared to all murderers.

  18. Jim says

    This law is not even remotely constitutional and will be overturned the moment an appeal lands in federal court if it isn’t overturned by a state court first. Why is the Republican Party doing these crazy things? Does this party really believe it has a future as the whites-only party?

  19. says

    Jim te law is a repeal and is certainly constitutional now the question of if it can be applied retroactively is another story for the state courts to decide the Feds have no jurisdiction here as the SCOTUS ruled in kemp that there is not right to appeal a death sentance based on statistical evidance alone, to have a sentance overturned one must prove racial discrimination happened in their case specifically and I don’t see a problem with that.

  20. jjasonham says

    @David Hearne

    I was very intentional in how I addressed your statements.

    To quote you:

    “That’s not racism, it’s a major defect in the black subculture and until black people accept responsibility for that, the disparity will continue.”

    You list a statistic and then make that incredible statement. Logical fallacy. You’re trying to say that correlation proves causation. What I wrote is what you said using an extension of the logic you presented. I know it’s upsetting you to see the full scope of what you implied in plain view, but that’s not my problem. The moment you stop justifying such punitive responses to a “subculture” of people and start realizing it is a SOCIETY issue, then I would begin to treat your statements with the proper adult response.

  21. says

    I have to say I’m on the both sides of this issue. On the one hand repealing this law is good because it seeks justice based on statistical analysis rather than due process but on the other hand It did address a very real problem which is the fact that blacks simply don’t get the same due process that whites get in the North Carolina legal system.

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