Maintain the North Carolina Racial Justice Act!
By Anita Earls
To be delivered to:
The North Carolina State House, The North Carolina State Senate, and Governor Pat McCrory
We, the undersigned, join the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Racial Justice, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in urging you to maintain the Racial Justice Act. Furthermore, we implore you to defend this necessary civil rights legislation against all efforts to undermine, weaken, or repeal its strength.
The Racial Justice Act implements the fundamental principles that nondiscrimination is the standard in North Carolina and that equal treatment under the law should be extended to every individual regardless of race. These principles are critical to the bedrock of a just society and we trust that the State of North Carolina will demonstrate an unwavering commitment to honoring them.
The recent court findings of systematic intentional exclusion of people of color from capital juries, an action that taints and undermines equal justice, were the result of an appropriately careful and well-litigated adversarial process. They are fully supported by reliable evidence and deserve respect. In light of these findings, we are particularly troubled by recent efforts to repeal or "amend" the Racial Justice Act to prohibit a judge from ever examining similar evidence in future cases. It is deeply wrong to turn a blind eye to the truth of how our criminal justice system has operated in the past.
When the Racial Justice Act was enacted, we hailed it as a great sign of progress in a state with an unfortunate history of racial discrimination and exclusion. It was significant that North Carolina paved the way for others to embrace a future built on the promises of full inclusion and fair treatment for all.
If the Racial Justice Act were repealed now, it would be a dramatic step backwards for North Carolina and, very likely, unconstitutional.
In the spirit of moving forward together, please reject efforts to retreat on civil rights. We urge you to maintain and support the North Carolina Racial Justice Act.
We, the undersigned, and
Anita S. Earls, Executive Director
Southern Coalition for Social Justice
Charles J. Ogletree, Jr.
Jesse Climenko Professor of Law
Founding & Executive Director, Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice, Harvard Law School
Debo Adegbile, Interim Director-Counsel
NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund
Wade Henderson, President and CEO
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
American Civil Liberties Union
In 2009, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a landmark piece of civil rights legislation, the NC Racial Justice Act (RJA). The RJA allows people facing capital prosecution and execution to introduce evidence of racial bias, including statistical evidence, if it exists in their case. The Racial Justice Act implements the fundamental principles that nondiscrimination is the standard in North Carolina and that equal treatment under the law should be extended to every individual regardless of race.
On April 20, 2012 Superior Court Judge Greg Weeks ruled in the first case to be heard under the RJA, finding intentional bias in the case of Marcus Robinson, both in the county and judicial division where he was tried, and across the state. As required by the RJA, Robinson was re-sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
Since 2010, the new majority in the NC General Assembly has been trying to repeal the RJA. They passed a bill that did repeal it, the Governor vetoed that bill, and they were unable to muster the votes to override her veto. Early in June, 2012, House members introduced another bill that guts the RJA, despite the clear evidence of racial bias cited in Judge Weeks’ order, and it passed with a veto-proof majority. It now heads to the NC Senate for a vote.
Regardless of ones views on the death penalty, we should all agree that racial discrimination has no place in our criminal justice system. This petition urges North Carolina policy makers to defend this necessary civil rights legislation against all efforts to undermine, weaken or repeal its strength.