Prove it: Racial Justice Act is about who we've become.
07/17/2009 The Fayetteville Observer
As the state Senate takes up the House-passed Racial Justice Act, it finds itself looking at an admirably straightforward bill whose opponents have strained to portray it as sinister and complex.
Its purpose - its only purpose - is to provide an assurance that two thirds of the state's people want: that race is not driving decisions to seek or impose the death penalty.
Here are the moorings that justice-minded senators will need if, as in the House, a howling gale of alarmism engulfs the bill.
The bill is not about keeping or abolishing the death penalty. Capital punishment remains whether this bill lives or dies.
Nobody "walks." The absolute best any convict can hope for is a sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole.
It isn't about rehashing the trial in a quest for technical errors. It's about reviewing "relevant evidence" that race was a "significant" factor in making it a capital case.
The burden of proof is on the person seeking the review, not on the state.
The state reserves discretion to rebut that person's argument, and to present evidence of its own.
If a convict doesn't make a convincing argument, he or she goes straight back to death row.
There is a long history, to which North Carolina has contributed, of racially disparate sentencing. But the Senate shouldn't pass the bill for history's sake. It should pass it for the present and the future, because the people we are today choose not to let justice miscarry in this particular way