Monday, June 13, 2011

Be Honest about Race Bias: Keep Racial Justice Act

Pastor's Pitch on Saving the NC RJA

Interesting pitch for preserving Racial Justice Act in North Carolina by blogger
by Doug B. on 11. Jun, 2011 in Death Penalty Reforms, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, Purposes of Punishment and Sentencing, Race, Class, and Gender, Who Sentences?

A local North Carolina paper has this fascinating commentary by Reverand Shawn Blackwelder, the pastor of Riverside United Methodist Church in Elizabeth City, NC, headlined "Be honest about race bias: Keep Racial Justice Act." Here are excerpts:

From time to time, each of us is called to speak out about issues of justice and honesty, and I feel the N.C. Racial Justice Act is one of those issues. The state of North Carolina became a model of justice, honesty and courage in 2009 when the Racial Justice Act was passed and signed into law. It simply provides for a court review to determine whether racial bias influenced a death sentence or a prosecutor’s decision to seek a death sentence. If race is found to have been a factor, the defendant would not go free, but would be re-sentenced to life without parole....

Like everything to do with the death penalty, the Racial Justice Act has its opponents as well as its supporters in the legislature. Currently, the opponents are directing the conversation, as the N.C. House of Representatives is scheduled to vote next week on a bill to repeal the Racial Justice Act. If this bill passes, it would be a huge step in the wrong direction, and I hope that Gov. Perdue will veto the measure.

I need to say a few words about what the Racial Justice Act is not. It is not an attempt to vilify those in law enforcement or the courts. I have law enforcement officers in my congregation, and I know that because they are on the front lines, putting themselves out there, they are often much more aware of and sympathetic to the problems of race and injustice. In short, they know more about it and do more about it than most of us....

Recently I hosted a press conference with local pastors in support of the Racial Justice Act. We held it in the sanctuary in the shadow of the cross, which reminded us of two things: first, Jesus Christ, who was unjustly tried and subjected to the death penalty and second, that we are all sinners in need of grace. So, it is a legal matter and a matter of justice, but it is also a spiritual matter and a matter of honesty....

The N.C. Racial Justice Act does not seek to point fingers at anyone; rather, it just seeks to make us be honest with ourselves about how our particular sin of bigotry may at times corrupt our attempts at justice in the legal system. And considering the finality of the punishment, that’s something we need to do.

The N.C. Racial Justice Act offers a practical and honest way to improve our criminal justice system, and reduce the historical and institutional effects of our particular sin of racial bias. I want to thank the legislative leaders and our governor for their honesty and moral courage in supporting the Racial Justice Act. I encourage them to continue to do so. It’s simply the right thing to do. I also want to encourage all people of faith in this area to be in prayer for how we might further seek a kind of justice that honors God and shows a love for our neighbors.

Some related posts on the North Carolina Racial Justice Act:

Robust legislative debate over NC Racial Justice Act
NC Racial Justice Act going to governor's desk
NC Gov signs new racial justice act concerning capital prosecutions
Will NC's new Racial Justice Act effectively kill the state's death penalty?
New research suggests race of victim impacts NC death penalty administration
NC defender officer urging that racial bias claims be brought in every capital case
NC prosecutors bring complaints about state's Racial Justice Act to court
State judge refuses to overturn Racial Justice Act in North Carolina
Upcoming MSU symposium to examine North Carolina Racial Justice Act
Talk of profound changes to North Carolina's potent Racial Justice Act

And see the posts below:

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