North Carolina Supreme Court Rules That Death Row Inmates Can Present Evidence Establishing That Race Was a Factor in Their Sentencing
In June, the North Carolina Supreme Court made an extremely important decision that will affect a number of criminal defendants and inmates on death row. Specifically, in a case where two defendants were provided with hearings to present evidence that the prosecutors not only purposely excluded African-Americans from their juries, but that racism negatively affected their sentencing, the high court effectively ruled that death row inmates can once again present evidence that race affected their trials. As a result of the decision, any death row inmate who filed a claim under the North Carolina Racial Justice Act prior to the law’s 2013 repeal is now also entitled to present evidence in court regarding whether race was a significant factor in the decision to seek or impose the death penalty in their trials.
The decision was a very important one, as, historically, the North Carolina State legislature went back and forth regarding whether a defendant could request a hearing to present evidence on such an important issue; depending upon which political party was in control at the time.
The North Carolina Racial Justice Act & What This Means
While initially passed in 2009 to allow defendants to challenge their sentences if they could prove that racial bias influenced their sentencing, the Racial Justice Act was later repealed in 2013, which meant that a number of cases were dismissed without defendants having a chance to present their evidence and make their case. Under the Act, if race was found to be a significant factor in the imposition of the death penalty, the death sentence was to be vacated and the defendant resentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. In order to make their case, some defendants have, for example, submitted data indicating that prosecutors in North Carolina death penalty trials were more than twice as likely to remove black jurors than white ones.
This latest decision essentially dictates that the final repeal of the Act was unconstitutional and hopefully marks a new era in ensuring that justice is done, which includes recognizing when certain civil rights have been violated, including the right to serve on a jury and the Sixth Amendment right to have a jury drawn from a “representative cross-section” of the community, where some counties are upwards of 12 percent African American.
If You Have Been Charged with A Crime in North Carolina, Contact North Carolina Criminal Defense Attorney Rashad Hauter Right Away
If you have been charged with a criminal offense, you need a North Carolina criminal attorney who has experience practicing locally and fighting aggressively for his clients’ rights. As a former Wake County Assistant District Attorney who has tried hundreds of criminal cases, Rashad Hauter knows the courts and the system inside and out, and can best provide you with the protection you need. Contact our firm to find out how we can best assist you with any charges you might be facing.