Senate Reforms Ensure Death Row Murderers Won’t Be Released
The North Carolina Senate on Monday approved reforms to a law allowing convicted murderers and child rapists on death row to appeal their sentences using statistics that allegedly show racial bias. The reforms will ensure these hardened criminals cannot be released into the community, and will preserve justice for more than 100 North Carolina families whose loved ones’ innocent lives were brutally taken.
Successful Racial Justice Act appeals are supposed to reduce the defendant’s sentence to life in prison without parole. But according to the General Assembly’s nonpartisan legal staff, someone who committed first degree murder before Oct. 1, 1994 – before the life without parole sentence was legal – could be eligible for release after 20 years in prison based on the Supreme Court’s decision in State v. Connor. Those who committed first degree murder between Oct. 1, 1994 and Dec. 1, 1998 could be eligible for release after 25 years. The court ruled it unconstitutional to increase a sentence to life without parole.
And as many predicted, the law has been severely abused. Nearly every death row inmate has filed a Racial Justice Act appeal, including criminals who are the same race as their victims and most members of their juries.
The reforms to the law do not keep convicted criminals from appealing their sentence on the grounds of racial bias – it simply clarifies that state courts must use the standards set by the U.S. Supreme Court, ensuring murders cannot manipulate statistics or use arbitrary data to avoid justice.
Below is a statement from Sen. Thom Goolsby (R-New Hanover), who moved for concurrence on the bill Monday evening.
“The Racial Justice Act is an ill-conceived law that has turned out to have very little to do with race or justice. It was designed to halt the death penalty in North Carolina for criminals convicted of the most heinous crimes – many involving young children and the elderly. We should not be advocating for murderers – we should be fighting to preserve justice for the victims and their families.
“Dozens of murderers on death row who committed their crime before the life without parole sentence became legal in 1994 could be released under the Racial Justice Act. This is a public safety crisis, and we have a moral duty to prevent murderers and rapists from being released into our backyards.”Tweet