Appeals should be considered under Racial Justice Act

Appeals should be considered under Racial Justice Act

Dewey Mullis

In 2012, Marcus Robinson, a North Carolina death row inmate, successfully used a 2009 law under the Racial Justice Act to prove that the jury selection process at his trial was influenced on the basis of race, according to The Fayetteville Observer.

As a result, Robinson and three other North Carolina death row inmates received a new sentence of life without parole.

Not only does this court ruling highlight the distasteful truth that racial biases still influence our justice system, but it places the burden on the state to handle the 150 now-pending appeals on the basis of jury bias.
The case is now in the North Carolina Supreme Court, which will review the lower court’s application of the RJA law that allows inmates to use statistics to prove jury biases.

Special Deputy Attorney General Danielle Elder said that it was absurd to allow statistics from one case to be used to support an entirely separate matter. But defense attorney Jay Ferguson said that studies showed prosecutors in the criminal trial used peremptory strikes on black jurors at higher rates than whites.

The decisions before the North Carolina Supreme Court are whether or not the lower court judge applied the 2009 law appropriately and which interpretation of the law applies to the decision making process, according to WRAL.

The life of the RJA in North Carolina lasted only four short years. What began as a means of bringing injustices to the forefront of justice reform might soon be a thing of the past.

What should be the most concerning factor here is that the laws under the RJA were proven to work but are now gone.

The repeal of the RJA in 2013 demonstrates an indifference toward real problems that have plagued the justice system for years. What kind of precedence would be set if legal protections were not upheld?

Though the days of the Civil Rights Movement are largely behind us, race is still proving to be an issue and we cannot deny that. As long as it shows itself, we must have laws in place that allow us to preserve the notion of justice for all.

We should want to resolve these injustices when they present themselves. Regardless of crime of incarceration, if there has been a denial of justice at any point during the proceedings, it is the responsibility of our representatives, our laws and our courts to respond and repair.

The appellants in these cases aren’t necessarily looking to simply get out of prison. It is a matter of needing something that we all seek comfort in, which is peace of mind knowing we were treated fairly.

In order to uphold the integrity of our state’s principles of justice, it is imperative that the North Carolina Supreme Court upholds the previous court’s decision and seeks to resolve all pending matters regarding potential injustices.

Mullis, a junior criminal justice major from Wallburg, is an opinion writer.