In the latest entry of destructive laws in North Carolina, Governor Pat McCrory (R) has signed a bill repealing the “Racial Justice Act,” which allowed inmates to challenge a death row sentence if they showed racial bias played a major role.
North Carolina’s choice to repeal a law passed by the Democratic legislature four years before is widely seen as reopening the door to executions in the state, since nearly all of the 152 death row inmates challenged their sentences under it. However, few received hearings and four had their sentences commuted to life without parole.
Reuters reports that of the 152 people on death row, 80 are black, while African-Americans make up a fifth of the state’s population.
Racial bias is a widespread issue in the justice system. Statistics show that blacks and Latinos receive harsher sentences than whites, and a person is over three times as likely to receive a death sentence if the victim was white. In North Carolina specifically, prosecutors removed African-Americans from the jury pool at twice the rate they removed jury members of other races. By repealing the Racial Justice Act, North Carolina took a step backward on fixing the systemic issue.