The NC Senate voted 31-19 Wednesday to override Gov. Perdue’s veto of a bill that would effectively repeal the state’s Racial Justice Act.
The 2-year-old law enables inmates on death row to use statistical evidence to try and prove racial discrimination was a factor in their sentencing. If successful, the sentence would be reduced to life without parole.
Durham Senator Floyd McKissick argued in favor of the RJA, telling the chamber that prosecutors seeking to win high-profile cases will intentionally exclude African-Americans from serving on some juries.
Senator Eric Mansfield echoed those remarks noting that in Cumberland County qualified African-American jurors were struck at almost three times the rate of other qualified jurors.
Surry County Republican Senator Don East countered by sharing the emotional story of his own father’s death, and labeled the Racial Justice Act “an outright blatant attempt to do away with the death penalty.”
Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger called the RJA the “wrong tool” to correct cases of bias, pointing out that white defendants were using the law to claim discrimination, even in cases where the victim was white.
On the House side, Senate Bill 9 was sent to the Judiciary I committee. A new, special committee has also been named that will further study possible changes to the Racial Justice Act.
To hear a portion of the Senate’s debate, click below: