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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.

Comment on this Story

  • Guest1946

    The vast majority of violent criminals are minorities. They have the opportunity for a fair trial as much as anyone else. The main difference is most of them have public defenders, but they get a trial and as many appeals as the law allows. This being said, if minorities are responsible for the major portion of capitol offenses, why should not more of them face the death penalty than whites? I personally am not in favor of the death penalty. Two wrongs never made a right. But, backing off it because of skin color is for sure wrong. I much favor a life sentence without possibility of parole and forced hard labor and minimal food and medical care. In other words, let nature take its course.

  • KennyG

    Well if this law is repealed at least we can once again execute individuals who are unfairly sentenced to death because of their race.

  • KennyG,
    Please put the violins away. When minorities are arrested, I PAY FOR their legal counsel. Unfairly sentenced? So we make sure that awards always to go to the minorities to make it FAIR????!! How about following the law? Wah Wah Wah

  • GuestO’Day

    This comes as no surprise. I’d have imagined that Sen. Goolsby would have had greater discernment when it comes to human life, most particularly the lives of those in society who can’t afford sufficient legal defense. Hey, Senator, while you are at it, why not propose a change to the Great Seal of the State of North Carolina. Replace the cornucopia with a basket of tea bags.

  • Polly II

    Dear “GuestO’Day,
    Who do you think pays for these convicted murderers to stay alive? Who do you think pays for their legal defense when they can’t afford one? We all do with our tax money. The biggest injustice here is that you don’t understand its not about whether or not they could afford sufficient legal defense because all have the right to counsel and be tried by a jury of their peers. Did you know that we have a public defenders office here in New Hanover County and that one of the best defense attorneys is the head public defender? You need to get out of your little world more often. Jennifer Harjoe is one of the best and has defended a many of indigent persons. So do your homework and get another opinion in that it costs us the citizens of North Carolina an average of $29,000.00 a year to house and feed and take care(Medical & Dental) of all of these so called humans when they have raped, robbed and murdered someone’s dear loved one. By the way did you know that when one person of this status is put to death the taxpayers have to pay an additional $1700.00 for an autopsy to prove that the method of death was what killed them. If they did not die by that method then the family members have a right to sue the state for “wrongful death”. Maybe when one of these thugs have taken away your son or daughter, husband or wife, mother or father you might have another opinion as well.
    Just one last thought the money we waste on these so called persons could be going to that person that really needs it like the homeless or the hungry or the elderly person that can’t afford their light bill or grocery bill. You see there is more to life and taking care of real people than seeing to “the lives in society who can’t afford sufficient legal defense” but really they can!
    “Education is the Key”! You go Thom!

  • jhamm

    It’s about respect for the laws and for some guy to shoot another man or policeman and know that it bears no justice because he can play the race card is wreckless for our communities.

    Read the fayobserver about some unremorseful convicts in the killing of their police and getting off death row because of race in jury.

    I know it’s about being fair and being proven guilty and we just have to trust our imperfect justice system over getting around it.

  • Gate Keeper

    While I agree that the seeming endless appeal process has become a source of frustration for the families of victims and prosecutors. And certainly the Racial Justice Act has been exploited by some just to deny proper judgement levied by our courts. However since the Racial Justice Act became law in 2009, four defendants have proved racial bias in their death penalty cases. The question then begs to be asked can we put into place a law or process that prevents endless appeals, but allows for a prudent and unbiased review when a unjust verdict is suspected.

    Lastly, will Sen. Goolsby take up the task to change our Drunk Driving laws with the same vigor as he has on the Racial Justice Act. We need this so we don’t have to read weekly about senseless deaths at the hands of a repeat offender? Oh I forgot, he doesn’t handle capital murder cases, just his bread and butter…. The defence of Drunk Drivers!

  • Vog46

    I have a hard time with a defense attorney promulgating a proposed law for such a life ending situation.
    According to the story 4 defendents have won cases proving racial bias in their convictions. without this law those 4 could have been wrongly executed. This in and of itself shows we should keep this law.
    But there’s something else – the racial Justice Act (RJA) became law in 2009 or 4 years ago. We’ve not executed people since 2006 or 7 years ago.
    So the delay in executions was not caused exclusively by the RJA – but the RJA proved in 4 short years that a handful of prisoners were racially discriminated against.
    Until such time as NC can stop this type of thing the law should remain.
    I have a hard time when someone who practices their trade in one section of government, the Judiciary, then works in the Legislative branch to regulate or control the Judiciary…………..


  • Guest3130

    Why does Goolsby (and other NC politician) continue to trot out this type of non-issue, when we all know the problems in our state & country right now are JOBS, JOBS, JOBS; BUDGET, BUDGET, BUDGET; and DEFICIT, DEFICIT, DEFICIT? Do they really think it makes US believe they are working/doing the job we hired them to do when we elected them, when in fact they are just fiddle-fussing around instead of getting down to the REAL business at hand?

  • renoGuest

    If you cant do the time dont do the crime. Read the news it says
    ( district attorneys cal for this ), Tom is just doing his job and very good I might add. These people know the deal when they choose to kill .
    Answer for me why does race matter when someone kills another person. Its past time for race crying to go away .

  • ts

    What about the ones that didnt do the crime but was convicted of crime. Also some people were put in a position to defend them selfs and had to take another persons life and now sitting on death row. And this is why we need the racial justice act.

  • Guest9743

    If Goolsby really wants to do something why doesn’t he try to pass some kind of legislation or do something about getting this high gasoline tax lowered in North Carolina. I haven’t heard him or anyone else say anything about that since last November and we probably won’t hear anything else about it until election time.


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