Perdue signs race, death penalty law

August 11, 2009 9:31:42 AM PDT
North Carolina become the second state that allows defendants to try to prove race was a significant factor in a death sentence or that a prosecutor used race a factor in seeking the death penalty.Gov. Beverly Perdue signed the Racial Justice Act into law Tuesday morning. The General Assembly passed the law last week.

The bill was sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Floyd McKissik (D-Durham) and in the House by Rep. Larry Womble (D-Forsyth), Rep. Earline Parmon (D-Forsyth), Rep. Paul Luebke (D-Durham) and Rep Pricey Harrison (D-Guilford).

"I have always been a supporter of death penalty, but I have always believed it must be carried out fairly," Perdue said. "The Racial Justice Act ensures that when North Carolina hands down our state's harshest punishment to our most heinous criminals ? the decision is based on the facts and the law, not racial prejudice."

Kentucky is the only other state that has the law.

"This is extremely significant legislation that will help to assure us that when the death penalty is used as an ultimate punishment that the decision is free of racial biases and prejudices," said Sen. McKissick.

The bill allows judges to consider whether statistical data shows race was a key factor in putting a defendant on trial for his life or receiving a death penalty. A judge who agrees with the evidence could limit a sentence to life in prison without parole.


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