A Commentary by J. D. Longstreet
North Carolina is a death penalty state. With death row housing approximately 150 prisoners awaiting execution, NC hasn't executed a single prisoner since 2006. At least one prisoner has been sitting on death row for 22 years.
The people of the state approve the death penalty. Every time they are asked, they approve it. So what the heck is going on?
Well, there is what has become known here as an "informal moratorium on the death penalty" in North Carolina.
How can such a thing exist?
Well, when you have a state run by democrats for one-hundred and forty years practically anything is possible.
The majority of Tar Heels are conservative in philosophy -- even your run of the mill, regular, blue collar, church-going democrats. But for decades the democrats sent to the state legislature were of the liberal variety because they were the candidates the Democratic Party would support. On the stump they'd reel off the conservative line, but once in the halls of the legislative building at the General Assembly, they quickly donned their liberal hats and they governed from the left -- sometimes the far left.
They been attempting for decades to have the death penalty revoked in NC. They have been unsuccessful because the people of North Carolina want to keep the death penalty.
The majority of voters in NC believe that if one willfully takes the life of another human being he/she must be held to account by having their life taken by the state. It is simple, really: You willingly take the life of another - you forfeit your own life. So, the anti-death penalty crowd has been using every means they could devise to slow it down, to throw the proverbial monkey wrench into the justice machine, at every opportunity. And it has worked.
The latest shoe they have thrown into the slow-grinding gears of justice in North Carolina is something called the Racial Justice Act. The RJA allows inmates (regardless of their race) condemned to death, to file a claim that "institutional" racism led to their death sentences. Under provisions of the NC Racial Justice Act, convicted killers on North Carolina's death row can have their cases reviewed by a judge who will be looking for racial bias in the original trial. The state has a chance to rebut, of course, but, and if, the judge finds there was "substantial" influence on the death row inmate's case -- due to racial bias -- that inmate's sentence can be converted from death to life in prison -- with no hope, ever, of parole.
The minute the law went into effect nearly every prisoner on NC's death row rushed to file for a review of their cases. Over 150 death row inmates lined up. Why not? They have nothing to lose by filing -- and their lives to lose, for sure, if they don't.
Now, here is one of the reasons republicans/conservatives hate this law. Originally, the law allowed the reviewing judges to consider statistical analysis of cases showing race MUST have been a factor in prosecution decisions -- even though not a single person/witness testifies that bias played any role in a specific case.
Can you see why we NC conservatives believe this law had one aim -- and that was to permanently seal the death chamber and vacate death row in North Carolina?
Republicans now control both houses of the NC General Assembly, the state legislature. It's the first time in 140 years that republicans have had control of the North Carolina legislature.
Republicans, and a few remaining conservative democratic lawmakers in the General Assembly, want the Racial Justice Act GONE. They, along with a host of Tar Heels, are more than a little concerned that the law is still on the books even though the GOP legislature has been able to water it down a bit with some revisions this year. An out and out repeal of the law has been impossible with a democrat governor wielding the veto pen. Just last month, the voters of North Carolina elected a republican governor, Pat McCrory.
Prosecutors, across the state, hate the law. They say the Racial Justice Act unfairly taints them all. They point to a statistical study comparing death penalty cases across the state for two decades, which reportedly found that NC prosecutors dropped black jurors from juries twice as often as white jurors and the study is also reported to have found that a defendant is almost three times as likely to get the death sentence if at least one of the victims is white.
It does appear (to us, at least) the prosecutors have a viable argument. In our opinion, they are ALL being painted with a single rather broad brush called racism and they don't like it. -- nor should they.
This is another case of the political left using the word, itself, (RACISM) and the toxic accusation of racism, to bring any intelligent debate on the problem, if, indeed, there IS a problem to begin with, to a screeching halt. It is a tried and true method -- used extensively by the political left -- to end any debate and force their agenda on the remainder of us -- regardless of the consequences.
So far, a total of four inmates from death row have been re-sentenced to life in prison ... all four by the same judge.
Two of the most recent inmates re-sentenced (all African-Americans) had been found guilty, by the original jury, of the murders, of three law enforcement officers. One of the murdered officers was, himself, black.
The other death row inmate, a female native-American, re-sentenced to life imprisonment had been found guilty -- by the original jury -- of the murder of two white women and critically injuring a black woman during a gang initiation ritual as she (the inmate) led a mixed-race gang.
The judge argued that his rulings hewed to the terms of the 2009 RJA (Racial Justice Act) and the the revisions to the act passed just this year.
At this writing a total of one-hundred and forty-four inmates are awaiting hearings under the RJA. All have claims pending. Only eight inmates condemned to death are NOT filing claims.
In our opinion, repeal of the North Carolina Racial Justice Act should be the first order of business when the North Carolina General Assembly next convenes. The RJA is an abomination and ought to be stricken from the North Carolina code of laws.
J. D. Longstreet
(For more read: http://fayobserver.com/articles/2012/12/16/1224206 )
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