“Unintended” consequences of the NC “Racial Justice Act” strike again

Posted by: ST on November 16, 2010 at 12:33 pm

This is another one of those infuriating “I wish I could say I was surprised, but I’m not” stories.  The Winston-Salem Journal reports (hat tip: XRLQ):

It’s difficult to imagine that legislators had Timothy Hartford in mind when they passed the Racial Justice Act.

Taken at face value, the RJA — as it has come to be known among the prosecutors and defense attorneys who have to deal with its ramifications — looks and sounds like high-minded legislation in the finest tradition of the American justice system.

The first sentence of the law, reads: “No person shall be subject to or given a sentence of death, or shall be executed pursuant to any judgment that was sought or obtained on the basis of race.”

Who could argue with that?

So how is it that Hartford, a white man who admitted killing an aging white shut-in and a white volunteer who stopped to care for him, can claim for one second that he is the victim of discrimination?

[…]

….. [S]tate Rep. Larry Womble, a Democrat from Winston-Salem, in March 2009 proposed legislation that would eventually become the Racial Justice Act.

He and other backers wanted the death penalty applied fairly and without regard to race. They had the statistics: Those who kill white people are 2.6 times more likely to be executed than those who kill minorities; 54 percent of those on death row are black, to name two — and they saw the bill enacted in August 2009. A successful appeal under the RJA can change a death sentence only to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The first wave of appeals was filed this summer.

“My intention was to put another tool in the toolbox where either side could use the law to make sure (the death penalty) was applied fairly,” Womble said last week. “We were trying to bring some fairness to the legal and judicial system. It is not a get-out-of-jail bill.”

[…]

Womble, one of the bill’s authors and champions, said last week that he and other backers had never intended for the law to be used as a back-door way to abolish the death penalty, nor did they envision that it might be used in cases such as Hartford’s.

“Originally the way it was written, it would not apply to situations like that … that was not our intent when we wrote that bill,” Womble said.

Oh, baloney.  Any law proposed by Democrats as it relates to capital punishment has to do with one thing and one thing only: abolishing it.  They’ve been after the death penalty with a vengeance since the mid-60s under the guise of it allegedly being “cruel and unusual punishment” but in reality they hate the death penalty because it punishes the worst offenders in our society who liberals believe don’t deserve a death row sentence because they had a bad childhood, or whatever the “rationale of the moment” may be – as if a bad childhood is an excuse for murder.

As I’ve written before, thanks to various “innocence” groups and other Democrat-affiliated organizations over the last few years, there has been an unofficial moratorium on the death penalty in this state.  The “Racial Justice Act” – one of only two in the nation, as I recall – is the pride and joy of Rep. Womble and these liberal “do-gooder” groups whose Job 1 Priority is to eradicate the death penalty.  Womble’s right in that it’s not a “get out of jail” card, but for the families of the victims who sat through a trial having to listen to the gruesome details of their loved one’s death, who left the courtroom after sentencing thinking that one day their loved one’s killer was going to pay the ultimate price for his or her crime, it might as well be a “get out of jail” card because anyone’s sentence that is changed from the death penalty to LWOP means that the families of the victims have to live everyday with the knowledge that the murderer of their loved one is alive and gets three squares while their loved one is 6 feet under. 

Womble saying that Hartford’s case is not something the writers of the RJA had in mind when they crafted the bill made me shake my head.    From my early September post on the RJA:

[Rep. Sarah] Stevens [Mount Airy] is almost entirely right: This law is another way the bleeding hearts in this state can continue to keep the unofficial death penalty moratorium (ongoing since 2007) in place, while defense attorneys can argue in favor of a more lenient sentence for death row inmates. However, I believe she was wrong when she stated that a white defendant challenging this law is not what the bill’s creators had in mind. I believe they had every intention of having as many guilty thugs on death row challenge their sentences as possible because liberals and Democrats in general tend to oppose the death penalty, and they will use whatever means they have at their disposal to do away with it.

By hook or by crook.

Just how can a white defendant use the RJA in his or her favor? Read on:

In seeking to have his death sentence reversed under the state’s Racial Justice Act, [brutal rapist and double-murderer Carl Steven] Moseley is claiming that the court system is biased against whites.

A motion filed by attorneys for the Mount Airy inmate states that the reverse bias he allegedly suffered was a result of efforts to eliminate discrimination against black defendants.

In attempting to prove that contention, Moseley’s motion cites figures showing that prosecutors around the state sought the death penalty against a larger percentage of white defendants than those of other races during the decade of the 1990s.

The dozen people executed in North Carolina between 1984 and 1991 were all white, Moseley’s motion further claims. And in another time frame during the 1990s, the numbers show that whites were much more likely to go to trial, face a death sentence and actually receive that penalty than non-whites.

Remember, advocates of this bill tried to justify their urgent push for this law on the basis that black people were being  unfairly sent to death row on the basis of their race.  So, if Moseley’s defense attorneys are right, THERE IS NO BASIS for this law. I swear – you cannot make this stuff up.

I suspect what Womble and the other lenient self-important lefties who pushed for this bill wanted was to look like they were Doing Something About a Problem – a problem that is so miniscule in nature so as to be non-existent, as we’ve already explored in-depth here.  It’s like so-called “hate crime” laws. Liberals love passing feel-good duplicate laws on alleged discrimination (duplicate because there are already laws on the books outlawing discrimination/unfair treatment based on race, etc), love posing for photo-ops surrounding the law, love trying to demagogue opponents as “racists” or “anti-child” or “anti-woman”, and love bragging to the folks back home that they’re “serving in the best interests” of their respective constituencies, but in reality what they’ve done is create a problem where none really existed, and in the process have made it more difficult for prosecutors to do their jobs – and made it more likely that prosecutors won’t bother seeking the death penalty out of worry that the RJA will be invoked. 

Which is all part of the intent of RJA proponents: If they can’t get the death penalty abolished legally, they’ll throw every stumbling block they can at the justice system to prevent capital punishment from being sought in the first place – including using shameless scare tactics on the public like they did with the SBI serology non-scandal, which our state-media outlets in Raleigh and Charlotte eagerly “investigated” and championed.  As a result, you have a de facto moratorium – or a continuance of it.   Mission accomplished.

Fed up yet?  For the first time in a century, the GOP has control of both the state House and Senate here in North Carolina.  Make sure to write your Reps and Senators and make them aware that you, too, know that the RJA – contra to the claims of its staunchest advocates – in effect will lead to injustice, not justice.

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