Sunday, February 20, 2011

Solution to problems with the State’s Racial Justice Act

North Carolina’s Racial Justice Act was enacted as law in response to the perceived disparity in the disproportionate number of African American criminal defendants sentenced to death. Studies, including one by Michigan State University’s law school, have supported findings that higher numbers of African American men were sentenced to death when their victims were white, or when juries deciding their fate were white. The purpose of the law was to enable those on death row, mainly African Americans, to cite that their capital convictions were based on issues of race, and thereby afford a judge the ability to convert their sentences from death to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Prosecutors from Forsyth County are complaining that the law is too sweeping and vague, and are claiming that some non-African Americans who are facing execution are using the Racial Justice Act to get off death row. However, as defense attorneys have pointed out, it is not just the race of the defendant, or the makeup of the jury that is the basis for inequity, but the race of the victim. Murderers of white victims are far more likely to be convicted of a capital offense than if the victims are of color.

What concerns some Forsyth County prosecutors is that the number of appeals processes to which death row inmates are entitled can become extremely high. That is a legitimate claim in these times of our state and nation’s fiscal calamity. However, the taking of a person’s life by the state should not be taken lightly, either.

One of the first test cases to be subjected to the Racial Justice Act was recently taken out of contention when the judge who was hearing the case removed Isaac Stroud, an African American convicted of killing his girlfriend in 1995, from a date with the executioner. Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson commuted Stroud’s sentence from death to life without the possibility of parole because of his mental illness, which prevented him from contributing to his own defense.

However, Stroud was mentally ill when he was sentenced to death initially and at the time he allegedly committed the homicide. It begs the question, why was he sentenced to death in the first place? I don’t know, but you can bet that race played a part.

The solution to inequities in the way capital punishment is dispensed is simple. Abolish the death penalty. Not only would it prevent the execution of innocent people, but it would save millions upon millions of taxpayer dollars that go towards attorney fees to appeal capital sentences and to fight the appeals. The issue of race of the defendant, race of the victim, and makeup of the jury would become moot if no death penalty was ever to be enacted.

Lawmakers at the General Assembly, especially Republicans who claim to be fiscal conservatives, should refocus their energy from diminishing the potency of the Racial Justice Act, and instead concentrate on repealing the state’s death penalty… if for no other reason than to save the state money. 



Part 8 of 17, Episode V, of “The MisAdventures of Super-Duper Cooper” is now uploaded on the website: www.justice4nifong.com. A link is provided below. Be sure to view the commentary that follows this educational comic strip.

LINK: http://justice4nifong.com/direc/sdcDirec/sdcEpv/sdc139.htm


15 comments:

Walt said...

While race may have played a roll, just as likely bad police work and bad prosecution. From Gell to Hunt North Carolina prosecutors and police have been too willing to cut corners ignore exculpatory evidence or just plain fabricate evidence to gain a conviction, any conviction regardless if the defendant had any connection with the crime at all. It is time to call a halt to the death penalty in North Carolina. The death penalty is not protecting us from killers and it is probably letting them go free, as it did in the Gell and Hunt cases.

Walt-in-Durham

Anonymous said...

I disagree with anyone who would defend a corrupt and dishonest prosecutor like Mike Nifong,who charged innocent people with crimes that he knew had never happened,but I do agree that the death penalty should be abolished.In the state where I live there have been more people exonerated from death row than were actually executed.There are so few people executed compared to number of murders that it violates the equal protection clause.There is also a disparity not touched on in the article and that is capital punishment is imposed on men and not women. Both Scott Peterson and Mary Winkler committed spousal homocide.Peterson was given the death penalty but Winkler only served two months in jail because her charge was reduced to manslaughter, something that would never happen if the genders were reversed.

Nifong Supporter said...


Walt said...
"While race may have played a roll, just as likely bad police work and bad prosecution. From Gell to Hunt North Carolina prosecutors and police have been too willing to cut corners ignore exculpatory evidence or just plain fabricate evidence to gain a conviction, any conviction regardless if the defendant had any connection with the crime at all. It is time to call a halt to the death penalty in North Carolina. The death penalty is not protecting us from killers and it is probably letting them go free, as it did in the Gell and Hunt cases.

Walt-in-Durham"


Glad that you agree about abolishing the death penalty, but I'm a bit confused by your final sentence. Surely you don't believe that Gell and Darryl Hunt were guilty. At any rate, removing the death penalty makes the Racial Justice Act moot, and saves millions of taxpayer dollars.

Nifong Supporter said...


Anonymous said...
"I disagree with anyone who would defend a corrupt and dishonest prosecutor like Mike Nifong,who charged innocent people with crimes that he knew had never happened,but I do agree that the death penalty should be abolished.In the state where I live there have been more people exonerated from death row than were actually executed.There are so few people executed compared to number of murders that it violates the equal protection clause.There is also a disparity not touched on in the article and that is capital punishment is imposed on men and not women. Both Scott Peterson and Mary Winkler committed spousal homocide.Peterson was given the death penalty but Winkler only served two months in jail because her charge was reduced to manslaughter, something that would never happen if the genders were reversed."


Glad you agree about abolishing the death penalty, and you make a good point, which I feel is legitimate, that gender plays a big role in who gets the death penalty. It may be a bigger factor than race.

Walt said...

"Surely you don't believe that Gell and Darryl Hunt were guilty."

No, quite the opposite. In the Hunt case because of sloppy police work and incredibly bad prosecution, the real killer went free for years. It's even worse in the Gell case. The real killer has never been identified and never prosecuted at all.

Walt-in-Durham

Nifong Supporter said...


Walt said...
"'Surely you don't believe that Gell and Darryl Hunt were guilty.'

No, quite the opposite. In the Hunt case because of sloppy police work and incredibly bad prosecution, the real killer went free for years. It's even worse in the Gell case. The real killer has never been identified and never prosecuted at all.

Walt-in-Durham"


Thanks for the clarification. I misinterpreted because of the wording, however, re-reading it now, I better understand what you were saying.

Anonymous said...

Time to end the War on Drugs too.We have spent billions of dollars,incarcerated milllions of people and people are still using drugs.What a waste.

Kilgo said...
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Kilgo said...
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Kilgo said...
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Nifong Supporter said...

Kilgo, thank you for supplying the articles. Naturally it is the topic of my next blog, which will be posted tomorrow, Sunday. For early birds, I already uploaded Part 9 of "The MisAdventures of Super-Duper Cooper."

I find it quite interesting, but not surprising that the News & Observer would quote the settlement figure at $18 million, rather than the $20 million which it most certainly is.

Duke University should be ashamed of itself for rolling over like it did. It's no wonder that the Insurance company refused to reimburse Duke for $60 million squandered away. (Keep in mind, the Duke Lacrosse boys never spent one day in jail.)

Anonymous said...

Yes Kilgo, there is extreme doubt.None of these lacrosse players would ever want to have sex with Crystal Mangum much less rape her.Besides the bathroom really was too small.

guiowen said...

To Anonymous 10:36:
Don't feed the troll.

Nifong Supporter said...


Part 9 of Episode V of "The MisAdventures of Super-Duper Cooper" is currently uploaded. There will be a link to it on the blog which I will momentarily post... which is about the secret deal the Carpetbagger families of the Duke Lacrosse defendants and their attorneys made with Duke. Shameful, especially as tuition hikes at Duke are approved.

Kilgo said...
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