Over 70 university professors from across North Carolina have signed a letter opposing a bill that will make amendments to the state’s death penalty law. Republican Senator Thom Goolsby of New Hanover County is the primary sponsor of the bill. His bill would lift the moratorium on the death penalty in North Carolina. WHQR’s Jessica Ferrer reports that it would also overturn the Racial Justice Act, a law enacted to investigate the impact of racial bias in capital sentencing.
Senator Goolsby says that the professors from schools like UNCW, UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke, and Wake Forest are the people who oppose the death penalty anyway. He says capital punishment is North Carolina state law, and that his bill would bring justice to victims. The bill will set a time frame for the attorney general to move forward with death penalty cases when all appeals are exhausted.
"It also overturns the RJA in its totality because it was a bad bill to begin with that attempts to use statistics as an end run around the death penalty."
He says that if people want to get rid of the death penalty legislatively, that’s what they should aim to do. Professor Matthew Robinson at Appalachian State opposes Goolsby’s amendments. In 2011 Robinson compiled a series of studies that show evidence of racial bias in the death penalty.
"Basically the reason that professors in my view are so opposed to this bill is because it’s trying to move the state in the opposite direction then what the studies suggest. So studies in the state consistently show serious problems with the death penalty in North Carolina, including racial bias, and this bill seems to just want to push all of that aside and ignore it to resume executions."
Goolsby says that racial bias is always kept in mind in motions, appeals, habeas corpus, and through the North Carolina Innocence Commission. But without the Racial Justice Act, Robinson says that it would be hard to prove racial bias. The last execution in North Carolina was in August 2006.