In a hearing last week in Forsyth County Superior Court, the Racial Justice Act survived an attempt by prosecutors to have the law struck down on constitutional grounds. Says the Winston-Salem Journal:
Judge William Z. Wood of Forsyth Superior Court rejected the arguments of Forsyth County prosecutors that the Racial Justice Act, signed into law in August 2009, was too broad and vague and was subject to multiple interpretations. He was the first judge in North Carolina to hear cases involving the Racial Justice Act, and the hearings were being closely watched by prosecutors from across the state as well as supporters of the law.
The law allows death-row inmates and defendants facing the death penalty to use statistics and other evidence to prove that racial bias played a “significant factor” in their sentence or in prosecutors’ decision to pursue the death penalty. The only remedy under the law is to reduce an inmate’s sentence to life in prison.
Wood considered two Forsyth County cases involving men on death row — those of Carl Stephen Moseley and Errol Duke Moses.
As this editorial in the Fayetteville Observer points out, the existence of the RJA is only controversial to the extent that it provides a convenient distraction from North Carolina’s real problems. Statistical studies have proven that race matters – in the determination of which cases will proceed to a capital trial, in the selection of jurors to hear those cases, and in the ultimate decision to impose the death penalty. Given that evidence, our next move should not be to sweep it all under the rug by repealing the RJA in the legislature or striking it down in the courts. It’s time to take an honest look at ourselves and our system. Let the sun shine in, North Carolina.