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Sen. Thom Goolsby’s hometown newspaper takes him to task this morning for referring to the peaceful demonstrators at the General Assembly as ‘morons’ and ‘clowns’ in a recent column he sent to newspapers across the state. The Wilmington Star News’ editorial board writes:

‘So that’s how little Sen. ThoGoolsbym Goolsby thinks of his constituents. Or maybe he doesn’t consider the part of the state population that opposes the General Assembly’s legislative agenda to be constituents.

But constituents they are, and they deserve better than to be referred to as loonies and “aged hippies,” or to be compared to a circus act, which is how a column the senator sent out describes the hundreds of protesters who showed up for what has become a weekly demonstration known as “Moral Monday.”

“Moron Monday” is how Goolsby, R-New Hanover, characterized the organized, peaceful protests started by the state NAACP and others who object to efforts in the General Assembly to cut unemployment benefits, kick many pregnant women off Medicaid, send tax dollars to charter and private schools with little accountability, and gut regulations that helped North Carolina gain a reputation as a leader of the New South. He’s getting a lot of flack for it. Deservedly so.

His column ran in at least one newspaper, but he sent it statewide. The StarNews has in the past published some of his columns, but because of its insulting tone chose not publish this one – until now (see below.) Our readers should see what we’re criticizing.

It’s one thing to ridicule one’s political opponents and quite another to belittle ordinary people who dare to speak out. Yes, some of the folks protesting at the Legislative Building are seasoned activists, but many are regular people who feel as though their voices are being muffled and their valid concerns ignored. We should expect more from a former Marine who attended The Citadel and who holds a law degree. What we got was a juvenile diatribe reminiscent of a schoolyard bully. Goolsby is more articulate than that, and generally puts on a friendlier public face. Frankly, we just don’t understand his reaction. Read More

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North Carolina hasn’t had an execution since 2006, and state Sen. Thom Goolsby wants to change that.

Goolsby, a Wilmington Republican, filed a bill today that seeks to repeal what’s left of the Racial Justice Act and restart executions in North Carolina.

state Sen. Thom Goolsby

state Sen. Thom Goolsby

North Carolina’s death row has 152 people on it, and the numbers of people sentenced to death has lessened in recent years. No one was sentenced to death by a North Carolina jury last year, though three people were in 2011. The longest resident of death row, Wayne Laws, has been awaiting execution since 1985.

Goolsby said at a press conference held Wednesday afternoon that the defacto moratorium the state had after a series of legal appeals needs to end.

“It is the law of our land,” Goolsby said.

Goolsby’s bill, Senate Bill 306, may not be able to immediately restart the execution process The Racial Justice Act, the first of its kind when it passed in 2009, initially intended to allow death row inmates to seek relief if racial bias existed in their case, by using statistics and anecdotal evidence. But that was weakened significantly in 2012, when the state legislature, at the urging of elected district attorney, curtailed the law by saying that the race of the victim could not be a factor and that racial statistics need to be restricted to the county or judicial district where the crime happened.

Nearly all of the 152 death row inmates filed appeals under the Racial Justice Act, and those appeals would still be able to proceed as part of those legal procedures, Goolsby said.

The North Carolina courts are also still reviewing the lethal-injection method of execution in the state, said Gerda Stein, a spokeswoman for the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, a Durham-based law group that represents death row inmates in appeals. The state’s appeals courts would need to make their rulings before executions can resume, she said.

Public sentiment is also not behind the death penalty, Stein said.

A poll conducted in early February by  Public Policy Polling found that 68 percent of North Carolinians favored repealing the death penalty as long as the offender is given lifetime sentence in prison without the chance of parole and had to work and pay restitution to victim’s families.

(Click here to see the PPP poll results.)