Tuesday, June 19, 2012

I cannot stand by

Great piece by MVFHR board member Yolanda Littlejohn in North Carolina's Star News online:

I was very disappointed and disheartened last week to learn that the N.C. House of Representatives voted to repeal the Racial Justice Act. Despite what supporters of Senate Bill 416 claim, this bill is a repeal of the law because under the revised language, statistics alone would not be sufficient to prove racial bias. A prosecutor would essentially have to admit to making a racially biased decision in jury selection or in pursuing the death penalty in the first place. I find it highly unlikely that any prosecutor is ever going to admit to making a decision based on race.
My sister, Jaquetta Thomas, was brutally murdered in 1991. I understand firsthand the pain of having a loved one taken by violence. More important, I understand that victims' families deserve justice that is equal and fair. Justice that is tainted by racial bias is not justice, and it creates a broken system that continually re-traumatizes victims' families.
As a family member of a victim of murder I am also distressed that the provision allowing an inmate to make a claim based on the race of the victim has been removed in the repeal bill. All victims' lives are equally precious, yet the statistics show that death sentences are much more common when the victim is white.
Since a death sentence is supposedly reserved for the most egregious of crimes, our system is demonstrating a belief that murdering a white person is more egregious than murdering a black person. By removing this provision in the new law, our government is agreeing that white life is of more value than black life. I cannot stand quietly by and pretend that this is okay.

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