The Los Angeles Times weighs in on North Carolina’s revised Racial Justice Act, which survived Gov. Bev Perdue’s veto earlier this week:
North Carolina’s original law was impractical and possibly unfair. As we pointed out in a March editorial, the high dismissal rate for black potential jurors isn’t necessarily an indicator of racial bias — if African Americans are more distrustful of the police and less supportive of the death penalty than whites (as polls seem to indicate they are), they may have been dismissed because of their beliefs rather than their race. And it doesn’t seem very reasonable to overturn a sentence for an individual, who may have received a completely fair trial, just because you can show that other trials may have been influenced by racial prejudice.
But if the original law went too far in addressing the racial bias problem, the new one doesn’t seem to go far enough. The discrepancy in sentencing between cases in which the victims were minorities and those in which they were white is deeply disturbing, and it’s a problem that isn’t confined to North Carolina. Since 1990, studies have consistently concluded that convicted killers are far more likely to get the death sentence if their victims were white; by forbidding courts from considering a victim’s race, North Carolina is willfully ignoring a mountain of evidence that the death penalty isn’t administered fairly because of racial biases and perceptions.
The LA Times answer —as you can probably imagine –is to do away with the death penalty altogether.
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