Oxford, NC – Area religious leaders will hold a press conference Thursday to show support for a law designed to deal with problems of racial bias in North Carolina's death penalty.
Religious leaders from the Oxford, NC area will speak in favor of the NC Racial Justice Act at 11 am on Thursday, May 5 at First Baptist Church, 320 Granville Street, Oxford, NC. The press conference is hosted by Rev. Lacy Joyner.
The Racial Justice Act, which became law in 2009, allows for court reviews of allegations of racial bias in death penalty cases. About 150 people on death row have filed claims under the Racial Justice Act. If racial bias can be proved, the defendant will have his sentence converted to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
In February a Forsyth County Superior Court found the act to be constitutional.
Before the act became law, nearly 700 religious leaders throughout North Carolina endorsed a letter calling for its passage.
After the passage of the Racial Justice Act, comprehensive studies were undertaken that reveal strong and pervasive discrimination in NC capital cases. Qualified black jurors are being excluded from jury service at more than twice the rate of white jurors, effectively disenfranchising them from their rights to participate on capital juries in their communities, according to a study by Michigan State University. For those currently on death row, 33 cases had all-white juries and 40 had juries with a single person of color.
In the modern death penalty era seven innocent men have been exonerated from North Carolina's death row. Five are black, one is Latino, and one is white. Other death penalty cases in North Carolina in recent years involved prosecutors wearing lapel pins in the shape of a noose and white jurors using racial epithets to argue for death sentences.
The race of the victim is often a driving factor in death penalty cases. A defendant's odds of getting the death penalty increase significantly when the victim is white.
There has not been an execution in North Carolina since 2006. The number of murders in North Carolina in 2009 was the lowest on record during the modern period of capital punishment and a 19 percent decrease from the previous year.
The press conference is coordinated by People of Faith Against the Death Penalty, a national nonpartisan, nonprofit organization based in Carrboro, NC. More info: www.pfadp.org.