North Carolina governor signs law aimed at restarting executions

WINSTON-SALEM, North Carolina Wed Jun 19, 2013 9:20pm EDT

North Carolina Republican gubernatorial candidate, former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory meets supporters outside Myers Park Traditional Elementary school during the U.S. presidential election in Charlotte, North Carolina November 6, 2012. REUTERS/Chris Keane

North Carolina Republican gubernatorial candidate, former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory meets supporters outside Myers Park Traditional Elementary school during the U.S. presidential election in Charlotte, North Carolina November 6, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Chris Keane

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WINSTON-SALEM, North Carolina (Reuters) - North Carolina's governor, hoping to resume executions in his state, on Wednesday signed the repeal of a law that has allowed death row inmates to seek a reduced sentence if they could prove racial bias affected their punishment.

The Racial Justice Act, the only law of its kind in the United States, had led to four inmates getting their sentences changed to life in prison without parole after taking effect in 2009.

Supporters said the historic measure addressed the state's long record of racial injustice in its capital punishment system, while critics said it caused unnecessary costs and delays after nearly all death-row inmates, including whites, sought relief under the act.

Governor Pat McCrory, a Republican, said repealing the law would remove the "procedural roadblocks" that had kept North Carolina from executing anyone since 2006 despite there being 152 people on death row.

"The state's district attorneys are nearly unanimous in their bipartisan conclusion that the Racial Justice Act created a judicial loophole to avoid the death penalty and not a path to justice," McCrory said.

Republican lawmakers gutted the Racial Justice Act, passed when Democrats controlled the legislature and governor's office, after winning the majority in the state's General Assembly.

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina criticized the repeal on Wednesday and accused state leaders of ignoring widespread evidence of systemic racial bias.

Statistics show that of the 152 people on death row in North Carolina, 80 are black, 62 are white and the remainder fall into other racial categories in a state where African Americans overall make up around a fifth of the population.

The repeal applies retroactively to cases with pending Racial Justice Act claims, a factor certain to result in additional legal wrangling, one death penalty expert said.

"To me, it's a violation of due process," said Mark Rabil, director of Wake Forest University law school's Innocence and Justice Clinic in Winston-Salem. "I don't really know what the legislature thinks they've done with our money other than buy a lot more litigation."

(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and David Brunnstrom)

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Comments (3)
flashrooster wrote:
Cool. The “pro-life”governor is yearning for more death. I’m sure he’s prayed about it and God directed him “get it on”. I’m sure the governor would say that Jesus would approve.

Jun 20, 2013 10:15am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Stickystones wrote:
The RJA was a roadblock to justice in NC for many victims, although its intended purpose was altruistic, the end result was abolishment of the death penalty. The Legislature in NC acted on this independently and the moderate Republican Governor signed it into law. I don’t know where you get your info Flash, probably just off the net, you see the label ‘Republican’ and just jump to conclusions. Republicans don’t get elected Mayor of cities like Charlotte, NC by being conservative.

Jun 20, 2013 11:25am EDT  --  Report as abuse
psychron wrote:
McRory has been rated as similarly conservative as Senators Chambliss, Vitter, Cruz, and Rubio. He has been rated similarly conservative as Governors Perry (Texas), Brownback (Kansas) and McDonnell (Virginia). I think that means he’s conservative. The law NC passed is going to cause endless lawsuits and expenses to the state, according to some journalists.

Jun 21, 2013 7:14pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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