April 20, 2012
At this moment we are standing outside the Cumberland County Courthouse in Fayetteville, NC celebrating a huge victory for justice, for the people of North Carolina, for the South and the country as a whole.
Moments ago Judge Gregory Weeks ruled that death row prisoner Marcus Robinson succeeded in showing that racial bias had influenced his death sentence.
Why is this a great moment for justice? Because the existence of the NC Racial Justice Act and the ruling by Judge Weeks today amount to a historic acknowledgement that race influences our courts.
Jim Crow never died. He just put on a suit and tried death penalty cases. That changed today.
Race and geography (the former Confederate states) have remained the greatest predictors of who gets the death penalty in the United States. Southern juries and the prosecutors who routinely bar black jurors from serving on capital juries have clearly valued the lives of white victims more than the lives of non-white victims.
If the movement to abolish the death penalty is one of the outgrowths of the civil rights movement, than today's victory is another important step for civil and human rights in America. As has been said many times, the American courtroom is the place in America least affected by the civil rights movement.
Judge Weeks decision today amounts to an admission that the legacies of Jim Crow, of lynchings, and of slavery have persisted and must be dealt with honestly. This decision will ultimately have effects in our courts far beyond capital cases.
Standing outside this courthouse right now, we know this historic victory for justice would not have come about if not for the courage and hard work of ordinary North Carolina citizens who challenged these legacies of discrimination. We at People of Faith Against the Death Penalty mobilized 50,000 North Carolinians to sign petitions calling for a moratorium on executions and reforms such as the RJA. We organized more than 1,000 NC congregations, local governments, businesses and community groups to pass resolutions. We generated endorsements for the RJA by 700 religious leaders. We sponsored community forums and press conferences across the state. And we will maintain this vigilance.
The RJA has so far withstood numerous attempts to repeal it.
These attempts to send us back in time to Old South justice will not stop any time soon.
As we mark the 25th anniversary of the dreaded McCleskey v. Kemp 1987 Supreme Court decision that allowed these legacies of racism and discrimination to persist in capital cases we can make North Carolina and the country hold fast to a new sense of justice and fairness.
Thank you for helping to bring North Carolina to this new moment.
P.S. PFADP relies on donations form caring people like you to support most of our work doing justice. Please give a donation today to sustain our work, http://bit.ly/I7Vtzm. Thank you!