An article about attempts by the state Republican Party to erode or altogether kill off North Carolina's historic "Racial Justice Act" revealed something startling to me.
The bill to gut the law that aims to prevent race from being used as a factor in death penalty cases was attached to a totally unrelated bill about illicit drugs. Yet, as noted in the article: "Under legislative rules, there is supposed to be a link between the issues when one bill is substituted for another. Sponsors provided no explanation for how banning synthetic marijuana was related to Racial Justice Act."
The response of Rep. Paul Stam, Republican from Apex who leads the committee hearing the bill? Democrats did the same thing when they were in power.
So the Republican leader admits he is evil because the other side was evil first?
Here is the article:
GOP slips Racial Justice Act overhaul into another bill
BY ANNE BLYTHE - Staff Writer
Published in: Crime/Safety
RALEIGH As death row inmates use a fledgling law to claim that racial bias played a role in their trials and sentences, Republicans are working to gut it.
The legislators propose to amend the Racial Justice Act so that anyone seeking relief under the law would have to show that prosecutors intentionally used race as a discriminatory factor in seeking the death penalty or selecting the jury to hear the case.
The amendment, proposed last month in the state House, comes as more than 150 death row inmates are seeking to use the law to have their death sentences converted to life terms.
In a House committee meeting Wednesday, legislators bent on overhauling the Racial Justice Act used an unusual procedure that gives them more time to seek support for their proposal before putting it up for a vote.
They gutted a Senate bill that would add synthetic marijuana, better known as K2 or Spice, to the state's list of illegal controlled substances. They then substituted the proposal that critics describe as an "essential repeal of the Racial Justice Act."
Under legislative rules, there is supposed to be a link between the issues when one bill is substituted for another. Sponsors provided no explanation for how banning synthetic marijuana was related to the Racial Justice Act.
Rep. Paul Stam, a Republican from Apex leading the committee, said the maneuver had been used by Democrats when they were in power.
Supporters of the Racial Justice Act attended the hearing to urge legislators to vote against the proposal. They described the law, passed in 2009 along party lines, as a groundbreaking attempt to move toward a colorblind justice system. They noted that a judge would have to find bias to convert an inmate's sentence and that the new sentence would be life with no chance for parole, not freedom.
Several prosecutors told the committee they were offended by assertions that race played a role in their decisions to pursue the death penalty or pick jurors. They showed pictures from grisly homicides, saying the legislation was an assault on victims. They complained that too much court time and state money would be spent on bias claims when there are already procedures set up to address them.
"Let's not cloud the case with bad pictures, because every homicide case has bad pictures," responded Henderson Hill, a Charlotte lawyer who handles civil rights cases and criminal defense. "This bill is not about guilt or innocence. This is about whether the system is legitimate."
The claims filed so far cite studies that show more than 40 percent of people on North Carolina's death row were sentenced to death by a jury that was either all white or included only one person of color. The studies also found that in selecting juries, prosecutors statewide struck qualified blacks from the jury pool at more than twice the rate as whites.
"These cases are about the actions of the defendants, not the race of the defendant," said Seth Edwards, a district attorney in Eastern North Carolina who also heads the N.C. Conference of District Attorneys. "I am personally offended when someone alleges that I see color."
The committee did not vote on the proposal Wednesday. No date had been set for when the topic would arise again.