Dear Fellow Abolitionists,
This morning in North Carolina’s first test case of its Racial Justice Act, Judge Gregory Weeks ruled that death row prisoner Marcus Robinson clearly demonstrated that racial bias had influenced his death sentence. This is a truly historic moment.
Today’s decision marks a new day for justice in North Carolina, where the legal system acknowledges the unsavory role that race plays in the decision to seek the death penalty, against whom, and for what crimes. It respects the rights of persons of all races to serve on juries.
The decision is a significant step in the right direction. And, it will save many lives. With this ruling, North Carolina continues its leading role as a state willing to honestly and fairly examine the affect of race in its criminal justice system.
This decision is rather timely, especially in light of Sunday’s 25th anniversary of the McCleskey decision, and just days after the release of a new study from Duke University demonstrating the greater likelihood of all-white juries to convict defendants of color.
In McCleskey, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to provide relief from a demonstrated pattern of racial bias in death sentencing. Instead the Court said that it was up to the legislature to address the concern as a matter of public policy. In enacting the Racial Justice Act, the North Carolina General Assembly and Governor Perdue have done that, making it clear that the state of North Carolina rejects the influence of race discrimination in the administration of the death penalty.
Today’s decision is a testament to the fact that we must not allow capital punishment to force us to abandon our basic commitment to fairness. With Sunday’s anniversary of McCleskey, the juxtaposition of all of this is sweet.
The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty congratulates the broad coalition of North Carolinians who have worked so hard for this day, including the Legislative Black Caucus, the extraordinary legal team, grassroots organizers and leaders from a variety of organizations, clergy and communities of faith, and others. It has been an incredible and inspiring effort. Today you have struck a major blow for justice. Thank you!