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Many on the modern far right would have us believe that human nature and society are essentially immutable — that we are all slaves to social “laws” bequeathed by Milton Friedman and/or the Almighty and there is nothing we can do to collectively, intentionally improve the world (other than to get out of the way of “the invisible hand”).

Fortunately, reality continues to intervene and remind us of myriad ways in which forward-thinking humans continue to intentionally and collectively improve the world. Read More

Political watchdog Joe Sinsheimer says Attorney General Roy Cooper will have his hands full in restoring the reputation of the State Bureau of Investigation.

On Wednesday, an independent review by two former FBI officials found that analysts at North Carolina’s crime lab omitted, overstated or falsely reported blood evidence in dozens of cases. Here’s an excerpt from the audit:

The factors that contributed to these issues range from poorly crafted policy; lack of objectivity, the absence of clear report writing guidance; inattention to reporting methods that left too much discretion to the individual Analyst: lack of transparency; and ineffective management and oversight of the Forensic Biology Section from 1987 through 2003.

The review comes on the heels of an investigative series by the News & Observer highlighting agents who bent the rules to please prosecutors and laboratory practices out of step with the larger scientific community.

Not only could the findings impact thousands of cases, Sinsheimer believes it could cast a lasting doubt in the minds of some jurors in future cases.

This weekend on “News & Views” Sinsheimer discusses what all of this could mean for NC’s Attorney General and who will likely control the crime lab in the future. For a preview of his interview with Chris Fitzsimon, please click below:

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Click here to read the independent review of the SBI forensic laboratory.

For North Carolinians who ever questioned the Racial Justice Act, Tom Keith is Exhibit A.

Keith, the district attorney for Forsyth County, is always quick to make a case against the new law that allows criminals on death row a chance to have their convictions overturned if they can prove race played a part in their conviction.

But in an Aug. 26 interview with Yes Weekly of Greensboro, Keith clearly displayed why the Racial Justice Act is so important. The top law enforcement official in Winston-Salem, it appears, believes African-Americans are naturally inclined to crime.

“If you’re African-American, you’re six, seven or eight times more likely to have a violent history,” Keith said in the article. “I didn’t go out there and put a gun in your hand and say, ‘You commit eight crimes and I’m a white man, I’ll commit one.’ That’s just instincts, that’s just how it is.”

Today, a group of pastors and other Forsyth County residents held a rally to demand Keith’s resignation. For them, it’s not acceptable that their district attorney holds views that echo Jim Crow.

 

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