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Governor Perdue vetoed Senate Bill 416 on Thursday, legislation that critics said would dramatically weaken the 2009 Racial Justice Act.

Last year, Republicans in the General Assembly passed a bill that would have repealed the RJA, which Perdue promptly vetoed.  The governor says the “compromise” bill (SB 416) offered during this short session would also gut the act and render it meaningless.

Here’s more from the Governor’s statement:

“Several months ago, a North Carolina superior court judge ruling on a claim brought under the Racial Justice Act determined that racial discrimination occurred in death penalty trials across the State over a multi-year period.  The judge’s findings should trouble everyone who is committed to a justice system based on fairness, integrity, and equal protection under the law.  Faced with these findings, the Republican majority in the General Assembly could have tried to strengthen our efforts to fix the flaws in our system.  Instead, they chose to turn a blind eye to the problem and eviscerate the Racial Justice Act.  Willfully ignoring the pernicious effects of discrimination will not make those problems go away.

It is simply unacceptable for racial prejudice to play a role in the imposition of the death penalty in North Carolina.”

Final House approval could come later this week for Senate Bill 416, legislation that critics say will gut the state’s landmark Racial Justice Act. The new bill requires that judges have evidence beyond basic statistical analysis before deciding that race was a factor in an inmate receiving a death sentence.

Rep. Larry Womble, one of the chief supporters of the 2009 Racial Justice Act, told the House chamber it was a lie to suggest inmates using the RJA would be freed from prison if the appeal was successful.

Senate Bill 416 won tentative approval (72-47) in the state House on Tuesday and is on Wednesday’s calendar for a third reading. To hear more from the floor debate, click below.

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Governor Perdue got some undeserved heat last month for suggesting the General Assembly was out to turn North Carolina into Mississippi. A glance at today’s news and events, however, seems to confirm once again that she was on the money.

From the good folks at Think Progress: “Mississippi set to execute most inmates since 1950′s”

From Raleigh’s News & Observer: ”Racial Justice Act changes again in committee.”

From today’s NC House calendar: Senate Bill 416: A bill to amend death penalty procedures (i.e. a bill  to repeal the Racial Justice Act and generally make executions easier to obtain and carry out in North Carolina).

This morning it’s the Gaston Gazette:

“Even if one accepts that there is moral justification for executing criminals under some circumstances, the flaws inherent in any human system charged with handing out death sentences cannot be overlooked.

Government simply can provide no assurances that, as long as it is executing people, innocent people will not die. Read More