So does this mean we don't stand for racial justice?
My thoughts on the matter, sent to the state's Governor:
This is Dr. Matthew Robinson, Professor of Government and Justice Studies at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC.
I am contacting you to urge you to VETO the recently passed bill that repeals the Racial Justice Act. I know you signed the Racial Justice Act into law, so I am asking you to now protect it from repeal.
I recently analyzed publicly available data as well as every study conducted on North Carolina’s death penalty system in order to provide an evaluation of capital punishment in our state. The result is my recently released report—“The Death Penalty in North Carolina: A Summary of the Data and Scientific Studies.” In the report, I summarize all that we know about the death penalty as it is actually practiced in our state. The report is available online: http://www.pscj.appstate.edu/ncdeathpenalty/
One of the five major findings of all this research is:
* Capital punishment in North Carolina is characterized by serious disparities based on extra-legal factors such as race and gender. Specifically, numerous studies illustrate that killers of whites are three or more times more likely to be sentenced to death than killers of blacks, even after controlling for legally-relevant variables. Further, killers of white females are most likely to be sentenced to death and executed, especially when the offenders are African American males. *
This finding, along with all the others, is explained in great detail in the report.
Capital punishment is a state-created and implemented public policy. Analysis and evaluation of capital punishment policy, like all policies, is part of the normal policy process. My analysis and evaluation of the death penalty in North Carolina, paid for by taxpayers who fund my position, calls for action. I ask that you to read the report and take appropriate action.
APPROPRIATE ACTION in today's case means protecting the state's Racial Justice Act, which is the primary mechanism to assure that racial bias does not persist in the death penalty. I call on you to protect this law by vetoing the bill just passed by the General Assembly!
I am available to talk with you or meet with you at your convenience. If you want to discuss the findings of my research or meet in person to discuss appropriate actions, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Matthew Robinson, PhD
Hi again from Dr. Matthew Robinson, Professor of Government and Justice Studies at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC.
I wanted to explain to you the major problem with repealing the Racial Justice Act and replacing it with the new bill that just passed the Senate yesterday.
That bill reverts back to the standard set by the US Supreme Court in McCleskey v. Kemp (1987), one of the worst decision ever reached by the Court. In that case, the Court recognized the validity of a study showing clear racial bias in the application of the death penalty in Georgia (the very same problem we see in North Carolina today--bias in the death penalty based on race of victims generally AND against minority defendants in inter-racial cases).
Yet, the Court held that an individual defendant must demonstrate discrimination in his or her specific case in order for the case to be considered unconstitutional. That is, he or she must be able to demonstrate that the prosecutor acted in a discriminatory fashion in the individual case or that the legislature intended to make discriminatory law. This is simply impossible in almost every case for it basically requires a defendant to get inside the head of an individual prosecutor (or legislator or juror).
McCleskey was a 5-4 decision that violated previous Court precedent as well as the way statistical evidence of race discrimination is treated in other areas of law including workplace discrimination and even using peremptory challenges to exclude potential jurors from service! How to address the latter issue was decided by the SAME COURT in Batson v. Kentucky (1986) when the Court held that prosecutors must prove that race did NOT play a role in dismissal of potential jurors if the defendant alleges that race played a role in jury selection.
So, you see the contradiction? Under Batson, if a defendant thinks a prosecutor is using race to excuse jurors, the Court requires prosecutors to prove they are NOT being discriminatory. But under McCleskey, if a defendant thinks he or she is being discriminated against in a capital case, the Court requires defendants to show that officials have discriminatory intent. This is inconsistent.
More importantly, it is also impossible to do. We know, based on careful studies in our state, that prosecutors use race to discriminate in jury selection. We know, based on careful studies in our state, that jurors use race in determining who lives and who dies. My review of these studies shows these facts: “The Death Penalty in North Carolina: A Summary of the Data and Scientific Studies.” In the report, I summarize all that we know about the death penalty as it is actually practiced in our state. The report is available online: http://www.pscj.appstate.edu/ncdeathpenalty/
Thus, I am contacting you again to urge you to VETO the recently passed bill that repeals the Racial Justice Act. I know you signed the Racial Justice Act into law, so I am asking you to now protect it from repeal.
If you want to know about these cases I have mentioned, please read my assessment of them here: Robinson, Matthew B., and Kathleen M. Simon (2006), Logical and Consistent? An Analysis of Supreme Court Opinions Regarding the Death Penalty. Justice Policy Journal 3(1): 1-59. http://www.cjcj.org/files/logical_and.pdf
Matthew Robinson, PhD