Even if the Racial Justice Act were only half as flawed as The N&O's Feb. 9
editorial "Tweet misses target," we'd still have a disaster.
Here's why both were ill-conceived: The Racial Justice Act does not, as the
editorial claims, require an inmate to "show a pattern of racial bias in
prosecutors' handling of his case." If only it did.
Regardless of the inmate's race, or the race of jury members, the RJA allows
convicted murderers to successfully claim bias using statewide data unconnected
to their case. It makes the case's evidence, and even statistics from the
case's surrounding area, irrelevant.
The example my office tweeted - an inmate whose death sentence was commuted -
was a case in which a death sentence was changed to life in prison because the
inmate was found to be mentally retarded, not a RJA case that found bias in
sentencing. There's a big difference, to be sure.
But our point was his lawyer's contention that the former death row inmate, and
still guilty murderer, should be released on parole because he committed the
crime before 1994, when every life sentence included eligibility for release.
Though the RJA says successful appeals will result in life without parole for
everyone, regardless of the date of their crime, that sentence could be deemed
That's not "far-fetched." It's a position supported by previous court decisions
and shared by legislators, North Carolina's district attorneys and the legal
experts who helped write the Racial Justice Act.
Racial bias has no place in the criminal justice system, where liberty and life
often hang in the balance. That's why such bias is unconstitutional, and why
inmates rightly have ample avenues to appeal. The RJA, unfortunately, has
little to do with race or justice - it's a backhanded attempt to end the death
Interestingly, the editorial opines that the state's Legislative Building is a
"hot-air factory where opponents of the Racial Justice Act seemingly will say
anything ..." Clearly, it is death penalty opponents, including those who write
The N&O's knee-jerk editorials, who say anything to help North Carolina's most
heinous criminals leave death row.
And it's clear that our state's most productive hot-air factory is not at 16 W.
Jones Street. It's in an out-of-touch editorial department at 215 S. McDowell
Phil Berger, State Senate
The writer, a Republican from Eden, is president pro tem of the N.C. Senate.
The length limit was waived to permit a fuller response.
Read more here:
(source: News & Observer)