300 NC Clergy Endorse Racial Justice Act

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300 NC Clergy Endorse Racial Justice Act

Post  Jennie on Wed Jun 25, 2008 12:01 pm

More than 300 North Carolina clergy members are calling on the NC General Assembly to pass a bill which would allow for court reviews of racial bias in death penalty cases.

Some of the clergy who signed the letter will release the letter to the public at a press conference at the Press Conference Room of the Legislative Building, 16 W. Jones St., in Raleigh at 11 a.m., Wednesday, June 25, 2008.

The letter calls for passage of the NC Racial Justice Act "out of a deep concern over the documented significant and persistent role that racial bias appears to play in deciding who is sentenced to die in North Carolina and who is not."

The signers of the letter are mostly pastoral leaders of Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, Episcopal, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim and other faith communities in North Carolina, from the mountains to the coast.

The letter refers to "the widely reported and compelling evidence of how race affects the death penalty in our state." The clergy call the bill "an indispensable tool in rooting out any role race plays in the death penalty system."

The letter calls on "all citizens to demonstrate a strong commitment to fairness and justice by joining us in calling on the NC Senate to pass the Racial Justice Act as passed by the NC House in 2007."

"Morally, we must act with clarity and caution in the practice of the death penalty. The NC Racial Justice Act offers a prudent and morally justifiable measure to improve our criminal justice system.

The clergy members also call on North Carolina prosecutors "to follow their mandate as agents of justice and support this important measure."

A study by the University of North Carolina finds that a defendant charged with murdering a white person appears to be more than 3 times more likely to receive a death sentence in North Carolina than those with non-white victims.

The Racial Justice Act would allow a person accused of a capital crime the opportunity of a court review of whether race played a part in the prosecutoršs decision to seek the death penalty. If a defendant has already been sentenced to death, he may present evidence, if available, that his death sentence was improperly obtained on the basis of race.

The act would also allow a defendant to present statistical or other evidence to support such a claim. If a defendant succeeded in establishing his claim that race was a basis for his death sentence, the court could impose a sentence of life without the possibility of parole.

The NC Racial Justice Act is currently assigned to the NC Senate Judiciary II Committee. Supporters of the bill hope the NC Senate will pass the bill in the next 2 or 3 weeks.

The letter was distributed to clergy by People of Faith Against the Death Penalty. PFADP is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization based in Carrboro, NC. www.pfadp.org .

(source: PFADP)
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