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If you want to get a glimpse of just how crazy and extreme things are getting at the General Assembly during the session’s hectic waning days, check out the debate surrounding this bill from the bail bonds industry that has been sliding through under the radar. It is premised on the truly cockamamie notion that publicly-supported pretrial release programs somehow constitute “unfair competition” for bail bondsmen. We are not making this up.

Over the weekend, the Wilmington Star News had a solid editorial on the topic that ought to be a “must read” for anyone following the subject.

North Carolina taxpayers don’t owe bail bondsmen a living, but a bill that’s making its way through the General Assembly would fatten their wallets at the expense of a pretrial release program that is well regarded by judges and court officials. The Honorables should lock up this legislation in a safe place and throw away the key. Read More

Hooray for Guilford County Register of Deeds Jeff Thigpen. Yesterday, this rather obscure public official had the guts to file a lawsuit against a goodly part of the American banking industry.  Here’s a link to the press release (also reproduced below) and other relevant documents.

Guilford County Sues To Clean Up Banks’ “Mess” at the Register of Deeds

Guilford County, ex rel. Jeff L. Thigpen, Guilford County Register of Deeds, filed suit today against LPS/DocX, MERSCORP, MERS, Inc., and numerous banks, loan servicers, and foreclosure specialists seeking to clean up the “mess” Defendants created in the County’s property records registry.   

“Our office uncovered an abundance of falsified, forged, and fraudulently executed mortgage documents,” said Thigpen.  “But our investigation only found the tip of the iceberg.  We need the banks to clean up their mess.”    Read More

The U.S. Department of Justice has informed the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts that North Carolina’s failure to provide court interpreters Title VI of the U.S. Code.

This is from a letter from the U.S. Department of Justice to the state that was released this afternoon:

“We write to report the findings of the Civil Rights Division’s investigation of the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), an office within the North Carolina Judicial Department. As the enclosed findings report explains, we have determined after a comprehensive investigation that the AOC’s policies and practices discriminate on the basis of national origin, in violation of federal law, by failing to provide limited English proficient (LEP) individuals with meaningful access to state court proceedings and operations.”

The letter also informs the state that the cost of meeting its obligations in this area would be relatively small (about $1.4 million) and gives North Carolina three weeks to get about the business of complying.

More information shortly.

 

Send in the mirrors.  Obviously there’s a shortage, judging by the lawmakers and district attorneys who acknowledge racial bias in the justice system in neighboring counties, but never in theirs.

The North Carolina Racial Justice Act, which simply allows defendants in capital trials to present another piece of evidence that race was a significant factor in their case, is up for a concurrence vote in the Senate today.  

Senators are being asked to restore the bill’s original intent of securing fairness in the ultimate punishment. It strips out amendments inserted by Senators eager for the state to resume executions, and whom still voted against the bill even after their amendments were added. 

The Racial Justice Act has been subjected to a cruel, years-long political game among legislators wary that their votes might make them vulnerable in an election year.  But more than most questions put before our lawmakers, this bill is about life and death judgments. Lawmakers have long ignored racial prejudices and assumptions that are typically unspoken and infinitely present in capital sentencing.

In the last year, three innocent black men were released from death row. It’s bad enough that those men served a combined 41 years in prison on death row, but they would have been executed without the state’s court-imposed moratorium on the death penalty.

Today blacks make up 20 percent of the state’s population but 60 percent of those on death row.

It’ll take Senators willing to put away the politics for a day, and who have the conviction to take a hard look in the mirror before voting, to push percentages like that into the history of another era.

 

 

For more information on the NC Racial Justice Act – Senate Bill 461, please visit www.ncmoratorium.org.

NC Racial Justice Act Video 

To contact a Senator to urge support for the bill, link to

http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/1576/t/6273/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=27713

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Carolina Justice Policy Center is a partner group of the NC Coalition for a Moratorium on Executions.

Death Row Exonerees Levon 'Bo' Jones, Jonathon Hoffman, Glen Edward Chapman & Prison Exoneree Darryl Hunt

Death Row Exonerees