Death row inmates appeal to North Carolina Supreme Court, citing racial bias

Raleigh, N.C., Aug 26, 2019 / 07:25 pm (CNA).- The Supreme Court of North Carolina is set to hear the case of six death row inmates who say a repealed state law should still allow them to be resentenced to life without parole, since they were able to successfully demonstrate that racial bias was a factor in their death sentences.

The court is scheduled to hear arguments Monday and Tuesday in the cases of four death row inmates who briefly were resentenced to life without parole when state legislators approved the Racial Justice Act in 2009, the AP reports.

Under the Racial Justice Act, four inmates had used statistics to prove that their race was a “significant factor” in their trials, thus leading to a judge converting their sentences to life without parole.

Legislators repealed the Act in 2013, and the four inmates were sent back to death row without a new hearing.

North Carolina’s Supreme Court justices also will hear from attorneys for two other death row prisoners whose Racial Justice Act claims were not decided before the law was repealed, the AP says.

More than 130 inmates brought claims under the Act when it was law, but these four were the only cases adjudicated successfully and then mooted, Slate reported.

A statistical study conducted by Michigan State University’s College of Law found that prosecutors struck qualified black jurors in North Carolina at far higher rates than white jurors, AP reported.

North Carolina currently has 142 people on death row, 63% of whom are non-white in a state that is 29% non-white, the AP reports.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that the death penalty is today “inadmissable,” because “there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes,” and “more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption.”

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