North Carolina has never reckoned with the racist legacy of its ultimate punishment, and it shows. The death penalty is one more Confederate monument we must tear down.
~ Henderson Hill
North Carolina’s death penalty grew from the institution of slavery, when it was used to cruelly enforce the subjugation of enslaved people. It matured in the era of Jim Crow, when it was carried out under the watchful eyes of lynch mobs and all-white juries often deliberated only minutes before sending Black people to their deaths.
Today, the death penalty looks different than it did in the past. Trials move more slowly, and the appeals process is more complex. The issue of race is rarely mentioned in the courtroom, even as the system continues to be run almost entirely by white judges, prosecutors, administrators, and law enforcement officers. Executions are carried out in sanitized chambers in the middle of the night, rather than on public hanging grounds. Yet, race remains perhaps the most important factor in deciding who gets the death penalty in North Carolina.
If we believe in racial justice, we must end the death penalty.
Right now in North Carolina:
- People of color make up less than 30 percent of the population, but 60 percent of death row
- Of the 12 people who’ve been exonerated after being sentenced to death in NC, 11 were people of color
- Nearly half the people on death row had an all-white jury or a jury with only a single person of color
- Defendants are more than twice as likely to be sentenced to death if they’re convicted of killing a white person