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The good folks at the ACLU-NC issued this statement late yesterday regarding the House’s passage of SB 306 – the bill to repeal the Racial Justice Act:

“The Racial Justice Act has made it possible to shine a light on widespread and indisputable evidence of racial bias in North Carolina’s death penalty system that needs to be addressed,” said ACLU-NC Policy Director Sarah Preston. “It would be beyond tragic if North Carolina turns its back on that evidence and haphazardly rushes to restart executions, knowing full well that our capital punishment process is plagued by racial bias and other flaws that might very well lead to the execution of innocent people. Even those who support the death penalty should agree that capital sentences must be handed down impartially and with respect for due process, yet this bill makes it harder, if not impossible, to achieve that goal.”

In the first case ever tried under the RJA, North Carolina Superior Court Judge Gregory Weeks commuted the sentence of death-row prisoner Marcus Robinson to life in prison without the possibility of parole after finding that the defendant “introduced a wealth of evidence showing the persistent, pervasive, and distorting role of race in jury selection throughout North Carolina. The evidence, largely unrebutted by the state, requires relief in his case and should serve as a clear signal of the need for reform in capital jury selection proceedings in the future.”

The ACLU of North Carolina is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to preserving and expanding the guarantees of individual liberty found in the United States and North Carolina Constitutions and related federal and state civil rights laws. With more than 11,000 members and supporters throughout the state and an office located in Raleigh, the organization achieves its mission through advocacy, public education, community outreach, and when necessary, litigation.

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New report shows that in North Carolina, African Americans are 3.4 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, despite equal use rates

State spent almost $55 million enforcing marijuana possession laws in 2010; ACLU-NC says North Carolina needs to change failed laws

RALEIGH – According to a new report by the American Civil Liberties Union, North Carolina spent nearly $55 million enforcing marijuana possession laws in 2010, while statewide African Americans were arrested for marijuana possession at 3.4 times the rate of whites, despite comparable marijuana usage rates. The report, Marijuana in Black and White: Billions of Dollars Wasted on Racially Biased Arrests, released today, is the first ever to examine state and county marijuana arrest rates nationally by race. Read More

Reproductive rights2FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 15, 2013            

ACLU: ‘Conscious Protection’ Bill Is Opposite of Religious Liberty
H.B. 730 Would Allow Public Hospital Employees to Refuse Abortion Care & Private Employers to Refuse Contraception Coverage for Women Because of Religious Beliefs

RALEIGH – A bill that would allow public hospital employees to refuse to participate in abortion care and private employers to deny contraception coverage to women because of their personal religious beliefs was approved by North Carolina House Judiciary Committee A today. House Bill 730 now heads to the full House for a vote.

In response, the ACLU of North Carolina (ACLU-NC) released the following statement: Read More

Two North Carolina legislators want the First Amendment to stay out of their county, and defy court rulings that prevent government bodies from invoking sectarian prayer before conducting public business.ford and warren

The “Rowan County Defense of Religion Act,” filed yesterday,  aims to make Rowan County in central North Carolina county an oasis where the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment does not apply.

The resolution, filed by Rowan County Reps. Carl Ford and Harry Warren, also says the county will get to ignore rulings from higher courts seeking to uphold the Constitution’s powers.

Any constitutional scholars (or first year law students) around to fact check? Please, we’d love to hear what you think of this one.

Here are some snippets from  (House Resolution 494):

Whereas the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States reads, ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an Establishing of Religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof’ and

Whereas this prohibition does not apply to states, municipalities, or schools….

and

“Whereas, the Constitution of the United States does not grant the federal government and does not grant the federal courts the power to determine what is or is not constitutional ….  the power to determine constitutionality and the proper interpretation and proper application of the Constitution is reserved to the states and to the  people.

The Rowan County Commissioners have been fighting attempts to stop them from using Christian prayers to open their meetings, and are being sued by the ACLU of North Carolina in federal court.

UPDATE: The ACLU of North Carolina had this to say about the bill, from legal director Chris Brook: “The bill sponsors fundamentally misunderstand constitutional law and the principles of the separation of powers that date back to the founding of this country.”

 

Rowan County Defense of Religion by ncpolicywatch

DroneFrom the good folks at the ACLU-NC:

ACLU-NC Applauds Bipartisan Bill to Limit Drone Use in North Carolina
Bill Would Place Safeguards on Use of Drones for Surveillance Purposes

RALEIGH – The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina is voicing its strong support for a bipartisan bill introduced in the North Carolina General Assembly this week that would place safeguards on the use of drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles, in North Carolina.

“We applaud this bipartisan group of lawmakers for coming together in the interest of protecting privacy rights for all North Carolinians,” said Sarah Preston, Policy Director for the ACLU-NC. Read More