RALEIGH, NC (WWAY) — Sen. Thom Goolsby vowed to end the de facto moratorium on the death penalty in North Carolina. Goolsby said District Attorneys statewide have called on him to try to repeal the Racial Justice Act.
His proposal would completely repeal the law.
“It is not necessary to repeal something that is providing fairness and integrity to the law,” criminal defense attorney James Payne said.
The Racial Justice Act allows capital defendants to challenge their death sentences if they can prove that race was a significant factor in their case.
“It was an end run; a way to get around the death penalty. It was wrong, and it is going away,” Goolsby said.
Critics say the law bogs down the judicial system. There are 152 people on death row in North Carolina, but the state has not executed an inmate since 2006.
Since the Racial Justice Act became law in 2009, four defendants have proved racial bias in their death penalty cases.
“It prevents individuals who are unfairly sentenced to death to life in prison without parole. They don’t walk free,” Payne said.
If Goolsby’s bill passes, it will change that.
“It voids all of those appeals so those cases can also be put back on the proper track for execution,” Goolsby said.
He expects this bill to pass through the General Assembly quickly. He says it could happen in the next couple of weeks.