Tom Fetzer apologized today for a state GOP mailer sent in several competitive races that implied death row killers could be walking North Carolina streets thanks to a slew of Democratic politicians.
Fetzer, the GOP’s state chairman, initially defended the mailer when he spoke with the Associated Press and said it came from statements made by several prosecutors. But he told the Winston-Salem Journal today he’s considering a request for a retraction for implying that the Racial Justice Act passed last year would release death row convicts.
“If it turns out to be less than accurate, we will take corrective action,” Fetzer told the Journal.
The mailer, with pictures of two death row inmates, struck a painful chord with one of the targets, Democrat state Rep. Hugh Hollliman, whose daughter was killed in 1985 and was called a “criminal coddler” in the mailer because of his support for the Racial Justice Act.
The mailer went on to quote from a Jacksonville Daily News article that erroneously stated, that the Racial Justice Act “would allow some convicted killers to go from death row to parole.” Other media reported at the time that the new law would allow sentences to be commuted to life without parole.
The line was taken from the text of the story, and was unattributed. The reporter who wrote the story, Lindell Kay, told NC Policy Watch Thursday he’d gotten his information from former Forysth County District Attorney Tom Keith and state Rep. Paul Stam of Apex.
Keith, who was one of most vocal opponents of the Racial Justice Act, was quoted in several publications last year, warning that it could lead to the release of convicted killers.
For those that are interested, here’s what the actual law says:
If the court finds that race was a significant factor in decisions to seek or impose the sentence of death in the county, the prosecutorial district, the judicial division, or the State at the time the death sentence was sought or imposed, the court shall order that a death sentence not be sought, or that the death sentence imposed by the judgment shall be vacated and the defendant resentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.