Opinion: Repeal of Racial Justice Act is unfair to minorities in NC

Austin Mann

Kevin Griffin

Austin MannIn what should have been a belated and cruel April Fools’ Day joke, the state Senate voted April 3 to repeal the historic Racial Justice Act, WRAL reports.

The Racial Justice Act originally allowed death row inmates to prove a racial bias in jury selection and sentencing.

This was changed during a major rewrite last year, and now Senate bill 306, currently in the legislature, would repeal the remainder of the law.

WRAL also reports that controversy over lethal injection and the role of medical professionals prompted a “de facto moratorium” on executions in North Carolina – there haven’t been any since 2006.

The bill would also allow medical professionals to execute death row inmates without legal repercussions and would remove safeguards that prevent unjust executions.

Sponsor and State Sen. Thom Goolsby, R-New Hanover, believes doing away with the act will provide the victims’ families with justice, according to WRAL.

I suppose that is the type of old-fashion western justice that will bring grieving families solace. It’s not like the convicted could receive justice while also being alive.
But what can we expect from the same person who said the Racial Justice Act is “bad law” because racial discrimination is already illegal? Making it illegal didn’t mean we suddenly started living in a post-racial society.

Perhaps Goolsby is willing to live in a fantasy world, but the reality is that racial discrimination is rife in American society, particularly in the prison industrial complex.

Black citizens are sent to prison for drug offenses 10 times more often than white citizens, despite the fact that on average, there are five times more white citizens using drugs in America, according to the NAACP Criminal Justice Fact Sheet.

Take the case of North Carolina v. Robinson. The American Civil Liberties Union reports that at Robinson’s trial, the prosecution removed 50 percent of all qualified black jurors from serving on the jury, but removed only 15 percent of white jurors. There were only two black individuals on the final jury.

Robinson received a death sentence in Cumberland County, where prosecutors were “three times as likely to seek the death penalty” if one of the victims of a crime were white, according to the ACLU.

The Racial Justice Act allowed Robinson to avoid the death sentence by showing the presence of racial bias. This will no longer be possible when the Racial Justice Act is gone.

Now, people may wrongly die, all because legislators refuse to realize the problem that is the American justice system.

Mann, a freshman computer science major from Raleigh, is an opinion writer.