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A Sad Day for Justice in NC: The Repeal of the Racial Justice Act on Juneteenth

NC NAACP Letterhead

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

21 June 2013

 

Contact:         Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, President, 919-394-8137

Mrs. Amina J. Turner, Executive Director, 919-682-4700

Atty. Jamie Phillips Cole, Public Policy Coordinator, 919-682-4700 

 

NC NAACP Responds to the Disturbing Repeal of the Racial Justice Act

On Juneteenth Holiday

 

June 19, 1865–or Juneteenth–is celebrated around the world as the day of liberation for millions of enslaved African Americans in the southern states.  Although all enslaved people in the southern states that were still engaged in an open rebellion against the United States had been declared free in January 1, 1863, in most of the states there were not enough U.S. military forces to enforce the end of slavery.  When the U.S. Navy fleet sailed into the Galveston Harbor in Texas, however, with sufficient U.S. military forces to back up his words of freedom, U.S. General Gordon Granger read U.S. Army General Order #3: ”The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.”

 

“Gov. Patrick McCrory picked Juneteenth–of all the days in the year, –to reinstate North Carolina’s proven race-based system of death, to sign an unconstitutional and flawed law that repeals North Carolina’s nationally-acclaimed Racial Justice Act, ” said Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, President of the NC State Conference of over 100 adult and youth branches across the state.  ”The extremists who racially gerrymandered themselves into power with obscene donations from Art Pope and national secret political societies have now placed their approval on the proven racist system of death in our courthouses.  The Racial Justice Act – which raised the window and turned on the lights on the racism in death penalty cases, was a major step in our efforts to carry out General Order #3, and to achieve “absolute equality of rights” between former masters and slaves.”

 

“It is not disputed that the repealed Racial Justice Act was a huge success and allowed death row inmates to present overwhelming evidence that the criminal justice system which resulted in their convictions was fatally flawed.  If past cases, where four death row inmates were able to establish the existence of racial bias in jury selection during their trial, are any indication of the evidence which exists in these pending cases, more death sentences will be struck down”, said NC NAACP Lead Attorney Irving Joyner. “It is a ‘down right – dirty shame’ that our political leaders, in light of these past revelations of a systemic breakdown and misuse of our prosecutorial process, chose to destroy a viable remedy, rather than to repair the race-based defects found in the system.  Gov. McCrory’s repeal seeks to make the new law apply retroactively, blunting appeals by death row inmates to assert their discrimination claims. Applying the repeal retroactively is clearly unconstitutional, since it is an ‘ex post facto law.’   This poorly disguised discriminatory attempt to strip the rights of death row inmates will now cost the State substantially more money in legal fees, as it must defend the tea party zealots’ agenda to disregard and diminish the constitutional protections of poor and working people.”

 

Juneteenth, which should be a day of rejoicing, has been turned into a day of sadness in North Carolina.  Governor McCrory had the opportunity to veto this bill, and separate himself from the Pope-Tea Party zealots who have seized control in the legislature.  Instead, he joined the forces of denial, which see no racism, hear no racism, in the back rooms and court rooms of our legal system of death.  The citizens of North Carolina have not and will not sit by and allow the extremists to take control of the State.  Governor McCrory, you have been put on notice.

 

The NC NAACP has always opposed the death penalty.  The Racial Justice Act passed in 2009 to allow men and women on death row to change their death sentences to life without parole, if they could prove racial bias in their death sentences.  Irrefutable research has shown that racial bias remains prevalent in North Carolina’s justice system.  Ignoring this fact is an embarrassment to all the people of North Carolina. 

 

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Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.

 

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