With the passage of the North Carolina Racial Justice Act by the NC Senate yesterday by a vote of 25-18 the State of North Carolina stepped up to lead the South away from the worst of its racist past. The bill allows for court reviews over capital defendants’ claims that racial bias influenced their cases. Gov. Bev Perdue is expected to sign the bill into law soon.
“This is a great spiritual victory for North Carolina, the South, and our whole country,” said Stephen Dear, executive director of People of Faith Against the Death Penalty. “We have passed through the horrors of Jim Crow, through the racial politics of Jesse Helms, and now we have come to acknowledge that racial bias infects our courts over one of the greatest powers citizens give to government, the power to take human life.
“This is a milestone victory out of the South. This is a victory brought by nonviolent social activism, the indomitable spirit and hard work by thousands of people including a scrappy, underfunded, but disciplined coalition of citizens’ groups, and some legislators who decided to stand empowered and do the right thing despite pressure from their political bosses and all in the face of misinformation and additional pressure from some district attorneys.
“Of course, despite this reform the death penalty system will still be subject to human error and will still be the morally unacceptable and error-prone system it cannot help but be. The only way to overcome the death penalty’s deep flaws is to repeal it and use the money that would be saved to provide real help for survivors of murder victims,” Dear said.
About 700 clergy throughout North Carolina recently called for passage of the NC Racial Justice Act.
People of Faith Against the Death Penalty is a national nonprofit organization based in Carrboro, NC and founded in 1994.