Don’t miss this new project on the Racist Roots of the NC death penalty

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This month, the Center for Death Penalty Litigation launched an ambitious new online project, Racist Roots: Origins of North Carolina’s Death Penalty. 

The project includes essays, poetry, artwork, commentary, and historical documents that place the state’s death penalty in the context of 400 years of history and expose its deep entanglement with slavery, lynching, Jim Crow, and modern systemic racism. The death penalty, the project contends, is another Confederate monument that North Carolina must tear down. Read the introduction here and then explore the rest of the project at RacistRoots.org… Read More

Three More RJA Cases Decided: NC Supreme Court Removes Ms Walters, Mr Augustine, and Mr Golphin from Death Row

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  On Friday, September 25th, 2020, Christina Walters, Quintel Augustine, and Tilmon Golphin were resentenced from death to life without parole. The North Carolina Supreme Court ruled that they had been unconstitutionally returned to death row after receiving life sentences under the state’s Racial Justice Act. The decisions in their cases are based on the state constitution and cannot be appealed. “Hallelujah!” cried Sylvia Golphin, Tilmon’s mother, upon hearing the news. Her brother, Willie McCray added, “Justice is not always … Read More

Supreme Court ruling shows why NC must end its racist death penalty

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Last week, the North Carolina Supreme Court broke new ground for a state court in the South. Not only did the justices nullify a death sentence poisoned by racism, they also spoke directly to the death penalty’s “egregious legacy” of racially discriminatory application: “[t]he same racially oppressive beliefs that fueled segregation manifested themselves through public lynchings, the disproportionate application of the death penalty against African-American defendants, and the exclusion of African-Americans from juries.” The support for the court’s conclusion that … Read More

N.C. Supreme Court: Racial Justice Act is key to ending death penalty racism

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The North Carolina Supreme Court has issued a historic call for the state to address and rise above its history of excluding Black citizens from jury service and allowing racial bias to seep into the prosecution of capital cases. In the majority opinion, Chief Justice Cheri Beasley wrote, “equal protection to all must be given—not merely promised” and pointed to an “egregious legacy of the racially discriminatory application” of the death penalty. (Read the full decision here.)   The 4-3 … Read More

Firing racist Wilmington police officers caught on tape should be only the beginning

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Last week, three Wilmington police officers were fired after being caught on tape making some of the most vile and racist statements imaginable. Unbelievably, their desire to gun down Black people in a race war was just one entry in a litany of shocking and despicable comments. Firing them was a good first step, but we must admit that the problem is far broader. It’s time to unearth the real-life consequences of such racist attitudes.… Read More

James Ferguson II on the meaning, impact and promise of the Racial Justice Act

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  This article was originally published on June 17, 2020 in the NC Policy Watch. When I was a young Black lawyer in the late 1960’s and 1970’s, there was an unwritten rule in North Carolina’s courtrooms: Though race shaped every aspect of the criminal punishment system, we were not to mention it, let alone raise objections to it. Well over a decade before the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed racial discrimination in jury selection, I objected to Black people being … Read More

Landmark N.C. Supreme Court ruling brings death penalty racism into spotlight

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The Center for Death Penalty Litigation’s June 5 2020 Press Release: The North Carolina Supreme Court today issued two landmark civil rights rulings on the Racial Justice Act, clearing the way for a much-needed review of racial discrimination in death penalty cases across the state. The court decided 6-1 Friday that Rayford Burke and Andrew Ramseur, prisoners on North Carolina’s death row, were entitled to hearings where they can present evidence that prosecutors purposefully excluded African American citizens from their … Read More

A poem from death row in honor of Covid-19 first responders

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There have not yet been any reported cases of Coronavirus on North Carolina’s death row, but prisons have emerged as some of the worst hot spots for Covid-19. More than 25,000 cases have so far been diagnosed among U.S. prisoners and the numbers are increasing exponentially. Rayford Burke is 62 years old and has lived on North Carolina’s death row since 1993. In prison, Rayford has taken up writing and become a keen observer of the world. Here we share his most recent work, a poem in honor of Covid-19 first responders.… Read More

A Covid-19 death sentence showcases an inhumane and illogical punishment system

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Last week, the state announced that an unnamed prisoner had become the first person to die from a Covid-19 outbreak at North Carolina Women’s Prison. The person was Faye Brown, and her death is the end of a 45-year story that demonstrates the cruelty and excess of our punishment system. In a humane system, this 67-year-old woman who reformed herself in every way possible would have gotten a second chance at life in the free world. In that world, she would have had at least the possibility of protecting herself from a deadly virus. But in our system, which prides itself on unending punishment at any cost, a life sentence turned into a death sentence.… Read More

NC Supreme Court sends a message to judges: Start taking jury discrimination seriously

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In these days of COVID, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by bad news. But we shouldn’t forget to celebrate good news, and we’ve had a little of that in the past week. On Friday, the North Carolina Supreme Court issued a decision that sends a clear message: North Carolina’s courts must finally begin to take the exclusion of black jurors seriously. The decision says that, when a person on trial suggests that a prosecutor struck a  juror because of the juror’s race, the courts must fully investigate. They must consider the history of disproportionate jury strikes in the county, and compare the treatment of white people and people of color in the jury pool to see if it’s been equal. If these sound like no brainers, that’s because they are. This is the least the courts can do to begin to end the decades-long practice of denying people of color a voice in the criminal punishment system.… Read More

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the more you know about a person, the less likely you are to support their execution; the more you know about the criminal justice system, the less likely you are to support anyone's execution