Virginia just abolished its deeply racist death penalty; North Carolina must follow suit

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This piece is reposted from N.C. Policy Watch. By Elizabeth Hambourger “This is, as we know, a historic day for Virginia. We are the first Southern state to abolish capital punishment, but we will not be the last.” — Jayne Barnard, Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, March 24, 2021 This week, Virginia became the first southern state to abolish the death penalty. At the signing ceremony, Gov. Ralph Northam and other speakers repeatedly referenced the racist history of … Read More

Newly discovered innocence cases show how old problems still haunt the N.C. death penalty

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Last month, two new men were added to the list of innocent people who’ve been sentenced to death in North Carolina. Anthony Carey was sentenced to execution for a murder he took no part in, based entirely on the testimony of a 16-year-old who had made a deal with the police. The teen said that while he robbed and murdered a gas station attendant, Carey was a passenger in a getaway car parked blocks away. In exchange for that testimony, the prosecutor allowed the teen to plead guilty to second-degree murder while Carey went to death row.… Read More

We must remove racist symbols from North Carolina’s courthouses

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This week, a diverse group of criminal justice leaders announced a campaign to rid North Carolina’s courthouses of Confederate symbols. At least 39 counties have these racist monuments on grounds that should be dedicated to impartial justice. The N.C. Commission on Racial and Ethnic Disparities in the Criminal Justice System says it will create a complete database of all Confederate symbols on courthouse grounds; sponsor events to educate the public on the history of these monuments, most of which were erected in the Jim Crow era as symbols of white supremacy; develop a legislative and legal strategy for monument removal; and serve as a resource for communities seeking to remove them. At NCCADP, we wholeheartedly support this work and see it as closely related to our efforts to abolish the death penalty.… Read More

Three more federal executions planned this week will bring no justice, only cruelty and heartbreak

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This week, the federal government plans to execute three people: Lisa Montgomery, Cory Johnson and Dustin Higgs. If all three executions are carried out, that will make 13 people executed by the Trump administration since July — all against the backdrop of a raging pandemic that has infected even the people facing execution and their attorneys and, now, the recent mob violence that killed five people at the Capitol.  If there has ever been a time for our nation to … Read More

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

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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