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Lethal injectionIn keeping with its practice of reversing progress and bucking national trends toward saner and more progressive public policies, the state Senate will take up a bill this morning to repeal the Racial Justice Act and jump-start executions. If the bill advances, however, it will do so over the objections of a group of more than 70 college and university professors who have delivered a letter to lawmakers spelling out the flaws in the legislation.

Meanwhile, one of the professors in the group — Appalachian State criminologist Matthew Robinson — authored an op-ed in the Winston-Salem Journal yesterday that does an excellent job of explaining why the proposed legislation is counterproductive. 

“As a professional criminologist who has written numerous articles and books on the factors that produce crimes like murder and how to prevent them, I am confident that the death penalty is a distraction from policies that actually work. So we should stop wasting our time “tinkering with the machinery of death” and get to the hard work of finally getting serious about instituting more effective crime prevention policies.”

You can read Robinson’s entire essay by clicking here.

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Public News Service reports this morning on new polling that shows growing sentiments among North Carolinians to do away with the death penalty:

“North Carolina support ending the death penalty in the state, according to a poll released this week. Of the 600 people polled, 68 percent said they would rather the state replace capital punishment with a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

According to Dustin Ingalls, assistant director of Public Policy Polling, the organization that conducted the poll, public opinion appears to be shifting.

“More and more, support for death penalty is decreasing, and that sort of falls in line with opposition on other social issues,” he said.

Support for abolishing the death penalty crosses party lines, according to the poll, with even a majority of conservative respondents in favor of ending capital punishment.”

Read the rest of the story and the poll results by clicking here.

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In case you missed it over the weekend, the Sunday New York Times included the following editorial specifically urging Governor Perdue to pardon the Wilmington 10:

Before leaving office next month, Gov. Bev Perdue of North Carolina should finally pardon the Wilmington 10, a group of civil rights activists who were falsely convicted and imprisoned in connection with a racial disturbance in the city of Wilmington more than 40 years ago. The convictions, based on flimsy evidence and perjured testimony, were overturned by a federal court in 1980. But by then, the lives of the convicted had been broken on the wheel of Jim Crow justice.

Wilmington was experiencing a bitter civil rights struggle in 1971 when a white-owned grocery store in a black neighborhood was firebombed. The police officers and firefighters who arrived to extinguish the flames came under gunfire. Nine black men and one white woman were railroaded to jail in connection with the event.

Years later, both the prosecutor and the state trial court were denounced in a blistering ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Va.   Read More

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The web is, of course, full of thoughtful pieces (and not so thoughtful pieces) about Friday’s tragedy.

Nicholas Kristof’s column in the New York Times was a definite keeper.

IN the harrowing aftermath of the school shooting in Connecticut, one thought wells in my mind: Why can’t we regulate guns as seriously as we do cars?

The fundamental reason kids are dying in massacres like this one is not that we have lunatics or criminals — all countries have them — but that we suffer from a political failure to regulate guns. Read More

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The North Carolina NAACP renewed its call for gubernatorial pardons in the infamous “Wilmington 10″ case again today and the evidence they advanced in support of the demand was disturbing and compelling.

The following is from a release that accompanied this morning’s press conference:

RALEIGH – Newly discovered racist jury profiling by the Pender County Prosecutor Jay Stroud, shows shocking racial hostility toward prospective Black jurors. In his first effort to select a jury to convict ten young activists who had been charged with burning a Wilmington store, District Attorney Stroud ended up with ten Blacks and two Whites. Stroud felt “sick,” and asked for a mistrial. The judge agreed, and the trial was rescheduled for Pender County. Stroud got a list of about 100 prospective jurors, and he wrote racial comments beside most of their names.

 “We rarely get such direct evidence of prosecutorial racism in jury selection,” said Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, President of the North Carolina NAACP. Read More