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The committee he’s appointed is stacked with Racial Justice Act opponents, but it appears that House Speaker Thom Tillis has backed down slightly from his usual m.o. (i.e. “my way or the highway”).

Next Friday, in the aftermath of Tillis’ failed efforts to repeal RJA, the newly established House Select Committee on Racial Discrimination in Capital Cases will meet at the Legislative Building in Raleigh to discuss the matter.

Though it has often not been the case with the conservatives running the General Assembly (see, for example, the kangaroo sessions in which the marriage discrimination amendment was rammed through), let’s hope there’s an actual full and fair hearing.

Perhaps if there is, RJA opponents will be able to explain to all of us exactly just what the great harm is that’s resulting from examinations of compelling data like this one.

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UPDATED: In response to a comment from a reader, we’ve removed the quotation marks around the word minister that appeared in the original headline of this post. We have no reason to doubt the legitimacy of Rev. Pittman’s credentials — just his very troubling beliefs.

Lost somewhat in the shuffle of the hubbub surrounding Governor Perdue’s announcement yesterday was the story regarding State Representative Larry Pittman. Pittman, who is apparently also – amazingly enough – a minister, said the following in an email to all of his fellow members of the House regarding the controversial letter of a mentally ill death row inmate: Read More

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Kathy Hembree Ledbetter, sister of death row inmate Danny Hembree released a statement today about here brother’s controversial letter  to The Gaston Gazette, which has been quoted extensively in media outlets around the state. Let’s hope people listen to her simple, plainspoken and heartfelt words. 

I’m so very sorry for any hurt or anger that was caused by my brother Danny Hembree’s letter to The Gaston Gazette. He is a very depressed man and in his hopelessness, he lashed out. I am sharing a letter (attached) he wrote recently to me in order to try to reveal the truth about his mental and emotional state which was brought out at his trial. He has had severe mental illness for over 35 years of his 50 years of life.  He is not happy, he is not comfortable and he is not well. He is being punished for his crimes and he is in a bad place. I feel deeply for the families who have been affected by his actions, actions that were motivated by mental illness.

 Kathy Hembree Ledbetter

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NPR had a national story this morning that comports with the situation here in North Carolina entitled “Death sentences drop to historic lows in 2011.”

Of course, given this reality, we should have seen a big bump in homicides in light the death penalty’s big “deterrent effect.”

Right??

Uh, not so fast my friend.

It turns out the murder rate in the United States has been dropping right along with the use of the death penalty and is now lower than at any time since the early 1960’s. It’s about half the rate it was less than 20 years ago when the death machine was going full tilt.