RALEIGH – The state House has given initial approval to a proposal that would amend North Carolina's Racial Justice Act.
Some said the changes are so drastic it would render the act useless, but supporters of the bill say these changes are needed.
Those who oppose the act aren't mincing any words about how they feel about this three-year-old law.
“Since it has little to do with race and nothing to do with justice,” said Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam, R-Wake.
The legislature passed this act in 2009, saying statics could be used by death row inmates to prove race played a role in them being given a death sentence rather than life without parole.
Under the amended proposal now before the General Assembly, the length of time statistics can be pulled from has been defined, the proximity from the crime for those statistics has been reduced and the people whose race can be considered has been cut down.
Supporters of the Racial Justice Act said these changes will gut the law.
“The statistical evidence can never be sufficient not one in 10 trillion, not one in 10 trillion squared, it can never prove the case,” said Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland.
Opponents of the law said as it stands right now, the law is too broad and caters to people found guilty of the worst of the worst crimes.
“Evil people doing unspeakable, inhuman acts,” said Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake. “That's what this is about.”
But after one case has already been tried and ruled on under the Racial Justice Act, some said it has been proven there is racism in North Carolina's justice system, and the current law helps to override that.
“It's a good bill,” said Rep. Larry Womble, D-Forsyth. “It goes a long way of saying North Carolina is going to do the right thing.”
After several hours of debate, the House gave initial approval to the bill, with enough votes to override a veto if the governor does not approve of the proposal.
The House will have their final vote on the bill Wednesday. It then goes to the Senate for a concurrence vote.