Though many of us have seen this coming since Republicans took over the state legislature in North Carolina, we should take the time today to mourn the repeal of the groundbreaking Racial Justice Act–the legislation which allowed death row prisoners in North Carolina to appeal their death sentences (but not their convictions) on the grounds of racial bias in the jury. (For earlier writing on this blog about the Racial Justice Act, click here, here, and here.) This law saved lives, and now we have taken a giant step backwards in protecting the civil rights of death row prisoners of color. Until we manage to entirely end the barbarism of the death penalty in the U.S., we should avidly pursue the reinstatement of the Racial Justice Act in North Carolina and the creation of similar protective laws in other death penalty states. In addition to offering a much needed avenue for appeal for individuals on death row, legislation like this helps those of us who oppose the death penalty to keep debates over the wildly erratic logic of capital punishment in the public eye.
Keep the 153 men and women on North Carolina’s death row in your thoughts today. They have suffered an egregious loss, and the hopeless place in which they live has become all the more unbearable.