by Matt Saldaña
For the first time ever, the N.C. Senate has passed the Racial Justice Act--a measure that previously failed after the Senate refused to vote on the bill. The historic legislation would prevent the execution of defendants who can prove race was was an underlying factor in the decision to seek, or impose, the death penalty at the time of their trial. However, death-penalty reform advocates are dismayed at a Senate amendment that seeks to re-start executions, on hold since August 2006, by resolving several legal issues before the courts.
"What they're trying to do is make this an execution bill, and this is not that," Rep. Larry Womble (D-Forsyth), a a House bill sponsor, told the Indy for a story that runs in print today (and online here). "This bill is about fairness, and opportunity, for both sides--the prosecutors and also the defendants. It's a fairness bill."
This Thursday, at 9:30 a.m., the Historic Thousands on Jones Street Coalition (HKonJ) and N.C. Coalition for a Moratorium will hold a press conference to protest the Senate amendment, which was introduced by Senate Minority Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham), one of 10 state senators to vote against the bill. In 2007, the House passed the Racial Justice Act without the amendement, though the Senate refused to vote on it.
Meanwhile, this year's Senate bill has been referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means and Broadband Connectivity. If favorable, it will then be referred to the House Judiciary I committee, which has already approved a House version of the bill. In an interview, Judiciary I Committee member Pricey Harrison (D-Guilford) said she will seek to restore the bill to its original version.
Full release, after the jump.
When: Thursday, May 21, 2009
Where: In front of the General Assembly, 16 W. Jones Street, Raleigh, NC
What: The Historic Thousands on Jones Street Coalition (HKonJ) in conjunction with the North Carolina Coalition for a Moratorium (NCCM) will be holding a press conference to call on the North Carolina General Assembly to pass the NC Racial Justice Act without an amendment to restart executions.
The Racial Justice Act would allow a defendant facing the death penalty to challenge his conviction or death sentence if he can show that it was based on inappropriate considerations of race. North Carolina courts are currently sorting out legal questions surrounding the resumption of executions. An amendment to restart executions attached to a bill to reduce the risk of racial discrimination is highly inappropriate.
Who: Historic Thousands on Jones Street Coalition (HKonJ)
North Carolina Coalition for a Moratorium (NCCM)
For further information contact:
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, President, NC National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, (919) 682-4700, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jeremy Collins, Campaign Coordinator, North Carolina Coalition for a Moratorium, (919) 491-2917, email@example.com
Charmaine Fuller, Executive Director, Carolina Justice Policy Center, (919) 943-5953, firstname.lastname@example.org