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N.C. Law Allows Evidence of Racial Bias in Death Penalty Decisions

Posted Aug 12, 2009 1:00 PM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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North Carolina has become the second state in the nation to allow inmates to challenge death penalty decisions on the grounds of racial bias.

Gov. Bev Perdue signed the Racial Justice Act on Tuesday, according to the Winston-Salem Journal and the Charlotte Observer. The law allows murder suspects and death-row inmates to use statistics to show bias in the administration of the death penalty. Judges who agree with the evidence may bar the death penalty, or overturn a death sentence and substitute a sentence of life without parole.

Prosecutors would be able to rebut the statistics with evidence showing that race was not a factor in their decisions, according to the Asheville Citizen-Times. Prosecutors, sheriffs and victim advocates opposed the bill. The North Carolina NAACP applauded the legislation.

More than half of the inmates on the state’s death row are African-American.

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