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The Voice of the Black Community

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Opposition to Racial Justice Act repeal grows
Ban would restart N.C. executions
 
Published Thursday, May 23, 2013 9:37 am
by Stephanie Carson, N.C. News Service

RALEIGH – North Carolina lawmakers are pushing ahead with a bill that would restart executions in the state and repeal the landmark Racial Justice Act.


The RJA allows inmates to argue that race was a factor in their sentencing or jury selection, and if they are successful, it converts their sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Randolph County attorney Jonathan Megerian said it is time for the state’s citizens to speak up.


“Whenever someone is put to death by the state of North Carolina, he's being put to death in the name of the average citizen. The average the citizen needs to pay attention to that, for the same reason that the average citizen should try to be involved in all of his government's decisions.”


The proposed legislation, Senate Bill 306, offers legal protection to doctors for performing executions. There hasn't been a execution in the state since 2006, and last year no one was sentenced to death in North Carolina. The RJA was passed in 2009 after mounting evidence that race was a factor in death row cases.

Doug Bartholomew of Charlotte was among the many who spoke out in Raleigh at an event on Wednesday. His brother-in-law was murdered, and Bartholomew said he and his family are strongly in support of the RJA.


“I really can't understand people being against the Racial Justice Act, because what it does is say if there is racism in our system, we want to find it and we want to fix the problem,” Bartholomew said.


Megerian cited instances where death row inmates are exonerated of their crime years after their sentencing. He remembered one case where his client spent 15 years on death row for a crime he did not commit.


“If we had sped that case up, not only would he be dead, but we would not have known that he wasn't guilty of what he was charged with. I’m afraid that's going to happen again if we race people to the execution chamber,” Megerian said."


Since the passage of the RJA, four death row inmates have been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Dozens of others are eligible.

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