Charmaine Fuller Cooper Last Day With The N.C. Justice For Sterilization Victims Foundation Will Be Thursday August 16

imageResponse: Thank you my friend Charmaine for all that you have done the hard work fighting for justice for victims who where sterilized. I want to also thank you again for your hard work in fighting for the NC Racial Justice Act. I remember when you came to Tarboro and we had a meeting several years ago educating folks about folks being sent to jail for wrongful convictions. I know you will do well in your new transition.

My last day with the N.C. Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation will be Thursday, August 16th.  It has been an enlightening experience working on the behalf of people impacted by NC’s former Eugenics Board program.  I have grown greatly as a person during my time at the Foundation and met many wonderful people who have suffered greatly but have still managed to display enormous strength, dignity and virtue.  While many including myself hoped and worked for compensation for victims to finally be passed this year, a vote on compensation was not carried forth and passed by both legislative chambers.  There are many who are still working for NC’s eugenics victims and the Foundation will continue to operate.  My advocacy for victims will also continue as a private citizen.

Professionally, I will transition into the role of Director for Community & Multicultural Health Initiatives with the American Heart Association.  I look forward to this new opportunity but will greatly miss the daily interaction with the victims and family members who I worked to earn their trust and respect via the Foundation.

After my transition, feel free to contact me at charmaine.fuller.cooper@gmail.com 

Read more:

Charmaine Fuller Cooper

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NC NAACP Statement on the NC House of Representatives’ Decision to Maintain and Preserve a Racially Biased Death Penalty System

NC NAACP Letterhead

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 13, 2012

For More Information:             Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, President, 919-394-8137

Mrs. Amina Turner, Executive Director, 919-682-4700

NC NAACP Statement on the NC House of Representatives’ Decision to Maintain and Preserve a Racially Biased Death Penalty System

Yesterday’s shameful vote by the NC House of Representatives to gut the Racial Justice Act, with Paul Stam’s RJA-repeal bill cleverly disguised as an amendment bill, is a refusal to deal with the systemic racism and racial disparities that have already been proven by the court of law to exist in our judicial system as it relates to the application of the death penalty

We know the evidence of this racial disparity is true from history, we know it’s true from certified studies and we know it’s true because two judges have ruled in favor of the legislation. The death penalty cannot be reversed, and everyone should want to be sure as possible that there is absolutely no bias in its application. That is why proponents and opponents of the Death Penalty supported the RJA in its current format.

The only conclusion one can come to when you have legislators gut a bill that has already been used in the courts to prove systemic racism exists, is that those legislators do not care about, nor do they want to address, the reality of racial bias in our current legal system. And a refusal to use every tool necessary to root out the racist application of the death penalty is to in fact participate in the injustice itself.

We live in a state where seven men have been exonerated from death row, who would have been murdered by the state if the system had only worked faster. Five are black, one is Latino and one is white. ALL were charged with the murders of white victims. Also, support for the Racial Justice Act is not an endorsement of violence or a sign that anyone is "soft on crime." Criminal justice enforcement is only strengthened when the system confronts racial bias directly and attempts to rid it from its practices.

All the evidence shows that the death penalty system is flawed with racial bias. It is bizarre and unthinkable that legislators are striving to maintain the status quo of racism in the death penalty system and steal a tool from the courts to address this abomination. We hope legislators will wake up and hear their humanity calling on them to change their mind and vote against this bill when it comes up for a final vote.

Finally, we have to ask: If the facts were in the other direction, how would legislators supporting this bill feel about repealing a law that was attempting to address a death penalty system that was 2-3 times more likely to put white defendants to death than their black counterparts? Would they fight to maintain a racially biased system if it was their family members, or members of their community who were being racially targeted for the death penalty? Within constitutional and American principles, as a necessary rationale for our pursuit of justice, we should not excuse or allow to exist patterns of systemic racism and discrimination. To do so is both unconstitutional and immoral.

We have to ask: If it had been proven in court that the law was constitutional, if the courts affirmed the significance of a study that showed white jurors are dismissed from jury pools at over twice the rate of their black counterparts, if 31 of the defendants on death row were convicted by all black jurors and another 38 with only one white person on the jury and if the research showed wealthy people were more likely than poor people to receive the death penalty, where would the ultra right extreme leadership stand then?

We must note that not one African American legislator supported this legislative trickery. Every African American legislator supported the Racial Justice Act in its current form. Every legislator who voted for the repeal bill, which removes tools needed by the courts to root out racial disparity, is white. This alone should cause the legislators voting to repeal the Racial Justice Act to pause and rethink their vote.

The governor should veto this bill and the five Democratic legislators should sustain their Governor’s veto and respect the many African Americans and other North Carolinians of good will who supported them.

And even if they override the veto, we will work with our attorneys in the NAACP and in our coalition to make sure all the provisions in our current law are provided to all death row defendants based on the principles of equal protection under the law.

###  

Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.  

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Forward email

This email was sent to thedcn@embarqmail.com by northcarolinanaacp@gmail.com |

NC NAACP | PO Box 335 | Durham | NC | 27702

See related:

NC Racial Justice Act

Emergency Challenge to RJA Repeal Bill Issued by NC NAACP and Coalition Partners

 
NC NAACP Letterhead

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 12, 2012

 

For More Information:             Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, President, 919-394-8137

Mrs. Amina Turner, Executive Director, 919-682-4700

 

NC NAACP and Coalition Partners Issue Emergency Challenge to RJA Repeal Bill and Call on Membership Throughout the State to Flood Legislators With Calls and Emails

 

DURHAM – The NC House of Representatives will consider another attempt to repeal the Racial Justice Act later today. The NC NAACP is issuing five critical reasons to vote against the bill, which can be found below. They are also calling on all branches and HKonJ partners to flood legislators with calls and emails immediately today encouraging them to reject Senate Bill 416, with the five critical reasons for doing so.

 

###

 

Five Reasons Legislators Should Reject New Efforts to Repeal the Racial Justice Act

 

1) The Racial Justice Act was passed with the support of proponents and opponents of the death penalty. All agreed that racial bias has no place in the application of the ultimate punishment of death.

 

2) Support for the Racial Justice Act is not an endorsement of violence or a sign that anyone is "soft on crime." Criminal justice enforcement is only strengthened when the system confronts racial bias directly and attempts to rid it from its practices.

 

3) Two Superior Court judges in North Carolina examined the law and evidence. The first found the RJA constitutional.  And the second, the Cumberland County Superior Court, examined the comprehensive evidence presented to it by both sides for several months and found that race played a significant role in the death sentence of the first RJA petitioner, Marcus Robinson, and changed his death sentence to life in prison without parole. The Court found what virtually every researcher who has studied the death penalty process has shown: racism infects much of this system and its ultimate punishment–the death penalty.

 

4) We live in a state where seven men have been exonerated from death row, who would have been murdered by the state if the system had only worked faster. Five are black, one is Latino and one is white. ALL were charged with the murders of white victims.

 

5) All the evidence shows that the death penalty system is flawed with racial bias. It is bizarre and unthinkable that legislators are striving to maintain the status quo of racism in the application of the death penalty and steal a tool from the courts to address this abomination.

 

###

 

Statement by Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II on Today’s Attempt to Repeal the RJA

 

Our current leadership engages in public policy rooted in regressive ideology that ignores both facts and truth. They deny what research says, what the courts have said, and what fundamental fairness and justice says. They push forward their race-baiting agenda anyway. Rather than face the racial disparity evident in application of the death penalty they instead spin the issue to suggest that to be for RJA as it stands is to be soft on crime and represents an unwillingness to punish criminals, even when they know this is both unfounded and untrue. Proponents and opponents of the death penalty have supported RJA in its current form. Family members of murdered victims have supported RJA in its current form.

 

For this to be happening in a southern General Assembly, where there is such a deep history and continuing reality of racialized arrests and convictions, is both deeply regressive and troubling. Attempts to rewrite the law and lessen its ability to uncover the truth about racially-biased convictions is a fundamental violation of the notion that justice must be blind and fair, not biased and unbalanced. Murder of any human being is a painful tragedy that tears a breach in the soul and spirit of our common humanity. As a pastor I’ve had to walk, pray and cry with families through the tragedy of a murder of a loved one. But I also learned from these same families that promoting a death penalty system that is flawed with racial and class bias is also tragic and does not soothe their pain or further the cause of justice.

 

Use this website to find your representatives and their contact information:

http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/representation/WhoRepresentsMe.html

 

###

 

Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.  

 

 

 NAACP Logo

 

 
 
 
 

See related:

NC Racial Justice Act


House approves overhaul of Racial Justice Act – 11 ABC

RALEIGH (WTVD) — State lawmakers tentatively approved an overhaul of the Racial Justice Act Tuesday.

The House will take a final vote Wednesday, but Tuesday’s vote passed  72-47, with a veto proof majority.

Since taking control of the General Assembly last year, Republicans have sought to void the 2009 law. (More)

See related:

NC Racial Justice Act

Special Session – Jan. 4, 2012 and more information on the Racial Justice Act

REMINDER: The Governor has called a special session of the General Assembly for Weds. Jan 4, 2012 at 2pm – to reconsider Senate Bill 9 which the Governor has vetoed. Senate Bill 9 is an act to repeal the Racial Justice Act of 2009

Please stand with me and contact your legislators and urge them to uphold the veto of SB9- The Repeal of the Racial Justice Act– and continue to move North Carolina forward rather than backward. 

Fayetteville Observer  OpEd:  “A Time for Justice and Healing” By Rep. Rep. Rick Glazier of Fayetteville, a Democrat, represents House District 45 in the N.C. General Assembly.

The North Carolina Racial Justice Act is all about the relationship between our present and our history. The early history of our state was marred by the adoption of slavery with a clear institutionalized message – race made a difference – and the legal system formalized the disparate treatment of African Americans and whites through the Black Codes. Those laws provided different punishments for crimes, based on the race of the defendant and the victim.

Other laws, intensely hostile to African-Americans, remained on the books until well into the last century. Their cultural counterparts have never fully been eradicated. It is in this context that the Racial Justice Act was enacted in 2009.

The criminal justice system operates with law enforcement officers, prosecutors, judges and juries exercising discretion over a host of decisions made during the course of a case. Because of this broad discretion, significant opportunities exist for an individual’s prejudice, informed by his cultural lens, conscious or unconscious, to affect the ultimate outcome of a case. At every stage of the process, African American suspects have often been treated differently. This should come as no surprise – it simply reflects the complex social mechanisms of class and race particularly prevalent in North Carolina through much of the last century.

About the act

So how does the act apply? The bill addresses the question of how discrimination is proved. There are generally two ways: first, with direct evidence that establishes that the decision-maker was prejudiced. In North Carolina cases, words by a juror suggesting "blacks value life less than whites" powerfully suggest racial animus. But, today, discrimination is often not that overt. It is more subtle, yet we cannot deny its existence. Any act of discrimination is, in effect, an act of violence – a denial of a citizen’s right to equal dignity and an obstacle to a society intent on assuring equal protection under the law. So a second route of establishing discrimination is through the use of statistical evidence to prove or disprove racial animus drove a decision.

Why statistical evidence? Because each statistic represents a human decision. These are objective facts quantifying very subjective human behavior. The act recognizes this and allows courts to look at those facts. Where there is a true disparate impact suggesting race played a substantial factor in the decision to seek the death penalty, select a jury or impose the death sentence, the act demands a legitimate, non-discriminatory explanation exist for what occurred.

A defendant bears a heavy burden to prove discrimination, but in the rare case that burden is met, a life sentence without parole will be imposed in lieu of a death sentence. No one, least of all the memory of the victim, is served by executing a citizen on the basis of skin color. Defendants may file frivolous cases – and they should be quickly dismissed for what they are – but the fact that many cases may be meritless hardly justifies refusing to consider those that are not. We are better than that as a civilized people.

Statistical evidence is used on a daily basis in courts throughout this country to determine civil law issues of discrimination. If it is acceptable to do so in those settings, it is impossible to see how the same evidence is invalid in a criminal case where a life is at stake.

Memorable case

Years ago, I represented a client in a civil rights case who was falsely convicted of a rape he did not commit. He was black; his accuser white. His jury was all white with black prospective jurors struck from the jury pool as was – often – customary practice in the early 1980s in parts of this state.

His defense was supported by four alibi witnesses (including a base chaplain), but not believed. He proclaimed his innocence loudly, but nobody listened. Strong exculpatory evidence was hidden by police (white) from prosecutors. He stayed in prison for eight years for a crime DNA evidence later proved he did not commit. His case was a classic example of errors permeating cross-racial eyewitness identification. And, my client was hardly alone, with North Carolina releasing nearly a dozen men from prison with life or death sentences for crimes they did not commit.

We are all human and we make mistakes, particularly in cases where extraordinary pressures exist to expeditiously solve the case, circumstances allowing our stereotypes and prejudices to take hold. That being said, we need to create a system as free from error as possible, one with a fail-safe check on those all-too-human inclinations, and one which convicts and punishes the guilty, but also frees the innocent.

The Racial Justice Act, in combination with many other criminal justice reforms – like the Actual Innocence Commission – is part of a modern and accountable criminal-justice system designed not to perpetuate error, but to correct it. Many honorable steps to eradicate the influence of discrimination have been achieved, but as the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice William Brennan wrote in McClesky v. Kemp, "we can not pretend we have completely escaped the grip of a historical legacy spanning centuries (and written into our constitution at birth). … We remain imprisoned by the past as long as we continue to deny its influence on the present."

The Racial Justice Act will once and for all, if allowed to complete its mission, determine whether race played a substantial role in the outcome of any case where a defendant sits on death row and will, as important, deter such from happening again.

The time delay for these executions until that decision is made and the cost of doing so dim in comparison to the moral, spiritual and human cost of not doing so. We can go a long way toward restoring full confidence in our criminal justice system for us all if we simply allow the law to complete its task.

Nothing in life is settled until settled right.

****************

More Information on the Racial Justice Act

· The Racial Justice Act is not about the guilt or innocence of defendants on death row. No person will ever be released from prison under the Racial Justice Act. The Racial Justice Act only allows a person on death row to provide evidence that racial bias played a role in their death penalty sentence. The burden of proof is on the defendant. If they are able to do so, they could possibly have their sentence commuted to life in prison without parole. If the claim has no merit, the person’s death sentence will stand.

· The Racial Justice Act is a modest piece of legislation created to defend against any racial bias playing a role in a death sentence. Passed and signed by the Governor in 2009, the Racial Justice Act was championed by supporters and opponents of the death penalty alike, because they all knew that we must examine the practices and procedures that lead to the disparities found in the application of the ultimate punishment in North Carolina.

· The reality of racial bias in death penalty trials is confirmed by a study conducted by Michigan State University. The study found that defendants with White victims are 2.6 times more likely to receive the death penalty than if their victims are African-American. Potential African-American jurors are dismissed from juries at over twice the rate of their White counterparts. Thirty-one defendants on death row were sentenced by all-White juries. And 38 more defendants were sentenced to death by juries with only one person of color.

Rep. Angela R. Bryant

Legislative Office Building, Room 542

300 N. Salisbury Street

Raleigh, NC 27603-5925

919-733-5878 (p)

919-754-3289 (f)

bryantla@ncleg.net

www.ncleg.net

See related:

Racial Justice Act

NC Racial Justice Act: First Five Death Row Defendants File Motions Citing Strong Evidence of Racial Bias

Center for Death Penalty Litigation Inc.

Suite 301, 201 West Main Street

Durham, North Carolina 27701

Telephone: 919-956-9545

Facsimile: 919-956-9547

For Immediate Release: August 3, 2010

For more information contact:

Malcolm Hunter, Executive Director CDPL 919-956-9545 or 919-971-0466

Ken Rose, Staff Attorney CDPL 919-956-9545 or 919-286-7653

NC Racial Justice Act: First Five Death Row Defendants

File Motions Citing Strong Evidence of Racial Bias

Durham, NC — One year ago, the North Carolina General Assembly took the trailblazing step of passing the Racial Justice Act, a guarantee that no person would be put to death because of racial bias in our state’s justice system.

This week, the law is finally being put to the test. Five death row inmates have asked the courts to convert their death sentences to life imprisonment without parole. All can prove that race played a key role in their trials.

The cases were filed today in Stanly, Randolph, Martin, Forsyth and Davie counties.

“Race still plays a part in determining who lives and dies in our justice system, and that is unacceptable,” said Center for Death Penalty Litigation Executive Director Malcolm R. Hunter. “We are proud that North Carolina is honestly confronting this legacy of injustice.”

North Carolina’s handling of the cases will be watched around the country, as it is the first state to undertake a comprehensive effort to sever the historical ties between race and the death penalty. The Racial Justice Act cements North Carolina’s long history of leadership in efforts to promote racial equality.

The cases are supported by three new comprehensive studies of the death penalty in North Carolina.

“We would like to live and practice in a system where race does not matter,” said Ken Rose, staff attorney at CDPL. “But the results show that white victims are valued more highly than black ones, and that black jurors are being denied their right to serve. This evidence of racial bias cannot be ignored.”

One of the new studies, from Michigan State University, shows that prosecutors in capital trials used peremptory strikes to exclude eligible blacks from juries at more than twice the rate that they excluded whites. Of the 159 inmates now on death row in North Carolina, 31 were sentenced by all-white juries, and another 38 had only one minority on their sentencing juries.

Two more studies, one from Michigan State University and one from the University of Colorado, show that those who kill whites are more likely to get the death penalty than those who kill blacks. The MSU study found that a defendant is 2.6 times more likely to get the death penalty if the victim is white. The UC study found that a defendant’s odds of getting the death penalty increase by 2.96 times if the victim is white.

The findings echo those of previous studies in North Carolina and around the country.

The MSU study also found that in some districts, minority defendants were more likely to be sentenced to death than white defendants.

The five cases presented to the courts today reveal these problems in stark relief.

In all five cases, the victims were white and the defendants were minorities, and prosecutors struck eligible blacks from the juries at far greater rates than eligible whites. In several cases, prosecutors rejected eligible black jurors even while accepting similar white jurors.

Three of the defendants were sentenced by all-white juries. In the other cases, only one or two minorities sat on the juries — even in Martin County, where nearly half the population was black.

In the Randolph County case, one member of the all-white jury admitted after the fact that “bigotry” influenced his decision to vote for the execution of a black defendant. In Union County, the defendant was referred to as a “n—–” during testimony.

“We don’t condone the crimes these men committed, and even if they win their cases under the Racial Justice Act, they will remain in prison for life,” said Hunter. “But we cannot, in good conscience, execute people who received death sentences because of the color of their skin, or their victims’ skin.”

The Racial Justice Act went into effect on August 11, 2009. Kentucky is the only other state with similar, but less comprehensive, legislation.

North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue said when she signed the act that it “ensures that when North Carolina hands down our state’s harshest punishment to our most heinous criminals, the decision is based on the facts and the law, not racial prejudice.”

The Racial Justice Act is exceptional because — much like civil rights laws — it allows the use of statewide or regional statistical evidence to prove racial bias, and it specifies that even unintentional bias is grounds for reexamining a death sentence. Those provisions were included with the understanding that racial bias is very rarely openly admitted, and evidence of trends is often the only way to prove it.

Inmates on death row were given until August 10, 2010 to file claims under the act.

As the deadline approaches, North Carolina begins a challenging new chapter in its history — one in which the state has an opportunity to acknowledge the fact  of continuing racial bias and scrub it away from the courtrooms that decide matters of life and death.

Fact sheet: 

The Racial Justice Act

The NC Racial Justice Act was signed into law on August 11, 2009. The Act allows defendants facing the death penalty to present evidence of racial bias, including statistics, in court. Anyone on death row who files a claim must do so by August 10.

If a death row inmate proves discrimination at the time of his charging or sentencing, he will be resentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The Act was passed after the wrongful convictions and subsequent recent exonerations of three black defendants. One of the exonerees was sentenced by an all-white jury and the other two had only one black juror on each of their juries. In all three cases, at least one of the victims was white.

Five Death Row Inmates File Motions

On August 3, 2010, five of the first death row defendants filed their motions in superior court in the counties where they were tried.

Central to these motions are results of a new comprehensive study of North Carolina capital sentencing that shows for the 159 people currently on North Carolina’s death row, 31 of those defendants had all-white juries and 38 of them had only one person of color on their jury. In other words, more than 40% of the defendants on North Carolina’s death row were sentenced to death by a jury that included either one or zero persons of color.

The study, which was conducted by researchers at Michigan State University, finds that statewide, prosecutors struck qualified black jurors at more than twice the rate at which they struck white jurors.

In addition, the MSU study finds that in cases with at least one white victim, a defendant is 2.6 times more likely to be sentenced to death than if the case does not involve a white victim. This finding is consistent with a study by Radelet and Pierce released in late July showing that the odds of receiving the death penalty increase by 2.96 times for defendants convicted of killing white victims.

The inmates who filed motions today argue that death penalty practices in their districts and individual cases corroborate the MSU study and show that race was a significant factor placing them on death row.

Kenneth Rouse, Randolph County, 1992

Black defendant, white victim

All-white jury

Prosecution struck 100% of qualified black jurors, 34% of qualified white jurors

One juror claimed after the trial that “blacks do not care about living as much as whites do.” The juror routinely referred to blacks as “n—–s,” and stated that “bigotry” was influential in his decision to vote for death. No federal court considered Rouse’s claim of race discrimination because his lawyers filed his appeal one day late. Rouse is one of five death row prisoners sentenced to death by an all-white jury in Randolph County. The prosecutor in Rouse’s case has a history of striking black potential jurors.  Even the US Supreme Court has taken notice of the problem and sent yet another Randolph County capital case back for an inquiry into whether the prosecutor struck jurors in a racially discriminatory manner. 

Guy LeGrande, Stanly County, 1996

Black defendant, white victim.

All-white jury

Prosecution struck 100% of the qualified black jurors, 26% of qualified white jurors

LeGrande’s white co-defendant, who was the mastermind of the murder, was allowed to plead to second degree murder. In testimony at his trial, LeGrande was referred to as a “n—– from Wadesboro.” LeGrande, who is severely mentally ill, was allowed to represent himself at trial. The district attorney in his case regularly wore a noose lapel pin, a racially charged symbol of lynching, in the courtroom. He gave noose pins to his assistant district attorneys as “morale boosters” when they obtained a death sentence. One of the three recent exonerees, yet another black defendant who was sentenced by an all-white jury, was prosecuted by the same district attorney. His exoneration came after the revelation that the prosecutor hid favorable evidence from the defendant.

Shawn Bonnett, Martin County, 1996

Black defendant, white victim

Two black jurors

Prosecution struck 78% of the qualified black jurors, 6% of qualified white jurors

Bonnett and three other men were charged with the robbery and murder of a white store owner. It was not contested that Bonnett was not the shooter or the mastermind in the case, and none of his three co-defendants were sentenced to death. The prosecution in Bonnett’s trial used their peremptory strikes to exclude 78% of the qualified black potential jurors, while accepting 94% of the white jurors. At the time of the trial, the population of Martin County was 45% black.

Jeremy Murrell, Forsyth County, 2006

Black defendant, white victim

One black juror

Prosecution struck 80% of the qualified black jurors, 26% of qualified white jurors

Prosecutors in Murrell’s trial used their peremptory strikes to exclude a large proportion of qualified black prospective jurors from jury service.  Meanwhile, prosecutors removed very few prospective white jurors from the panel.  When asked to explain why they had cut nearly all the blacks from the jury, prosecutors claimed to have done so because those prospective jurors were close in age to the defendant, had failed to reveal their criminal records, or had a family history of mental illness.  However, the prosecution gave its approval to white prospective jurors who were the exact same age as the defendant, had failed to reveal the exact same criminal charges as the struck black jurors, and also reported family histories of mental illness. 

Jathiyah Al-Bayyinah, Davie County (Iredell County jury), 1999, again in 2003

(granted a new trial, re-sentenced to death)

Black defendant, white victim

Two all-white juries

1999 case – prosecution struck 100% of the qualified black jurors, 24% of qualified white jurors

2003 case – prosecution struck 67% of the qualified black jurors, 21% of qualified white jurors

On appeal, Al-Bayyinah, who is Muslim, presented evidence that his trial attorneys were ineffective in failing to present mitigating evidence of racial violence and tension in Statesville at the time he was growing up. In rejecting his claim, the court specifically cited as reasons why the claim was being denied that he became a Muslim, and the “the peaceful murder victim was an elderly white man.” One of the investigating officers in his case manufactured a fraudulent statement incriminating to the defendant and altered computer files to conceal the deception, and another later pled guilty to embezzlement from the sheriff’s department. Of the seven defendants currently on death row from that prosecutorial district, four were sentenced by all-white juries.

Michigan State University Study

In response to the passage of the Act, researchers at Michigan State University are conducting a detailed, comprehensive study on race and the death penalty in North Carolina. The study examines 5,800 cases that were eligible for the death penalty for the years 1990 through 2009. The data are analyzed at the statewide, judicial division, prosecutorial district and county levels.

The study examines jury selection, as well as three different approaches to charging and sentencing: looking at the numbers of people charged and sentenced based on race of defendant and victim to see if there are disparities, looking at those same numbers while also looking at the impact of statutory aggravating and mitigating circumstances, and looking at the numbers while trying to measure the impact of about 200 different factors or variables. These three approaches all show that race plays an improper role in the death penalty in North Carolina. The study results are entirely consistent with numerous studies across the country, including the July 2010 Radelet and Pierce study, which shows significant discrimination in the administration of capital punishment.

The MSU study finds that statewide, prosecutors struck qualified black jurors at more than twice the rate at which they struck white jurors.

In a death penalty case the judge must excuse a juror for “cause” when that juror is not qualified to serve. Judges excuse all jurors who are not able or willing to vote for the death penalty. The MSU study looked at “peremptory” strikes, which prosecutors use to exclude potential jurors who have already been qualified to serve. Prosecutors do not need a reason to exercise a peremptory strike, though they are not supposed to strike a juror based on race, gender or religious affiliation.

The MSU study findings are consistent with other studies done on jury strikes. The Alabama-based Equal Justice Initiative released a report this summer that found that in eight Southern states (not including NC), eligible black jurors are being dismissed from jury service at much higher rates than whites. The Dallas Morning News conducted a two-year investigation of non-capital felony cases tried in Dallas County in 2002. They, too, found that qualified black jurors were being struck at significantly higher rates. Other studies revealed the same trends.

In addition, the MSU study finds that in cases with at least one white victim, a defendant is 2.6 times more likely to be sentenced to death than if the case does not involve a white victim.

The MSU study findings are consistent with multiple prior studies in North Carolina that found in cases with white victims, the defendant was significantly more likely to receive a death sentence. Radelet and Pierce released a study on July 22, 2010, that concluded a defendant’s odds of getting the death penalty increase by 2.96 times if the victim is white. Similar findings are observed in a 2001 UNC-CH study by Unah and Boger, a 1990 report by the US General Accounting Office, and many others.

http://ncmoratorium.org/siteres.aspx?resid=e66d6959-7dc7-4e7c-a800-e777bb661f12

www.ncmoratorium.org


One year ago, the North Carolina General Assembly took the trailblazing step of passing the Racial Justice Act, a guarantee that no person would be put to death because of racial bias in our state’s justice system.

This week, the law is finally being put to the test. Five death row inmates have asked the courts to convert their death sentences to life imprisonment without parole. All can prove that race played a key role in their trials.

The cases were filed today in Stanly, Randolph, Martin, Forsyth and Davie counties.

"Race still plays a part in determining who lives and dies in our justice system, and that is unacceptable," said Center for Death Penalty Litigation Executive Director Malcolm R. Hunter. "We are proud that North Carolina is honestly confronting this legacy of injustice."

North Carolina’s handling of the cases will be watched around the country, as it is the first state to undertake a comprehensive effort to sever the historical ties between race and the death penalty. The Racial Justice Act cements North Carolina’s long history of leadership in efforts to promote racial equality.

The cases are supported by three new comprehensive studies of the death penalty in North Carolina.

"We would like to live and practice in a system where race does not matter," said Ken Rose, staff attorney at CDPL. "But the results show that white victims are valued more highly than black ones, and that black jurors are being denied their right to serve. This evidence of racial bias cannot be ignored."

One of the new studies, from Michigan State University, shows that prosecutors in capital trials used peremptory strikes to exclude eligible blacks from juries at more than twice the rate that they excluded whites. Of the 159 inmates now on death row in North Carolina, 31 were sentenced by all-white juries, and another 38 had only one minority on their sentencing juries.

Two more studies, one from Michigan State University and one from the University of Colorado, show that those who kill whites are more likely to get the death penalty than those who kill blacks. The MSU study found that a defendant is 2.6 times more likely to get the death penalty if the victim is white. The UC study found that a defendant’s odds of getting the death penalty increase by 2.96 times if the victim is white.

The findings echo those of previous studies in North Carolina and around the country.

The MSU study also found that in some districts, minority defendants were more likely to be sentenced to death than white defendants.

The five cases presented to the courts today reveal these problems in stark relief.

In all five cases, the victims were white and the defendants were minorities, and prosecutors struck eligible blacks from the juries at far greater rates than eligible whites. In several cases, prosecutors rejected eligible black jurors even while accepting similar white jurors.

Three of the defendants were sentenced by all-white juries. In the other cases, only one or two minorities sat on the juries – even in Martin County, where nearly half the population was black.

In the Randolph County case, one member of the all-white jury admitted after the fact that "bigotry" influenced his decision to vote for the execution of a black defendant. In Union County, the defendant was referred to as a "n—–" during testimony.

"We don’t condone the crimes these men committed, and even if they win their cases under the Racial Justice Act, they will remain in prison for life," said Hunter. "But we cannot, in good conscience, execute people who received death sentences because of the color of their skin, or their victims’ skin."

The Racial Justice Act went into effect on August 11, 2009. Kentucky is the only other state with similar, but less comprehensive, legislation.

North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue said when she signed the act that it "ensures that when North Carolina hands down our state’s harshest punishment to our most heinous criminals, the decision is based on the facts and the law, not racial prejudice."

The Racial Justice Act is exceptional because – much like civil rights laws – it allows the use of statewide or regional statistical evidence to prove racial bias, and it specifies that even unintentional bias is grounds for reexamining a death sentence. Those provisions were included with the understanding that racial bias is very rarely openly admitted, and evidence of trends is often the only way to prove it.

Inmates on death row were given until August 10, 2010 to file claims under the act.

As the deadline approaches, North Carolina begins a challenging new chapter in its history – one in which the state has an opportunity to acknowledge the fact  of continuing racial bias and scrub it away from the courtrooms that decide matters of life and death.


Want to Learn More about the NC Racial Justice Act?

Click here to download a fact sheet with more information about the recent RJA filings and the findings from the MSU Study on racial disparities in the NC death penalty.


Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, President
Mrs. Amina Josey Turner, Exec Dir
NC NAACP
P O Box 335
Durham, NC  27702
919-682-4700 V  919-682-4711 F
1-866-NC-NAACP

Racial Justice Act – What Tom Keith really thinks about the Racial Justice Act

Quote: “The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” Albert Einstein 

I am glad to see some Pastors stepping up to the plate. C. Dancy II – DCN Publisher

For North Carolinians who ever questioned the Racial Justice Act, Tom Keith is Exhibit A.

Keith, the district attorney for Forsyth County, is always quick to make a case against the new law that allows criminals on death row a chance to have their convictions overturned if they can prove race played a part in their conviction.. (The Progressive Pulse)