Changing the status quo of race and capital punishment? : An evaluation of North Carolina’s Racial Justice Act
The influence of racial bias on capital punishment in the US is part of a narrative long heard and extensively discussed over the past while nothing much seemed to change. Examples of states taking measures to confront this subject of widespread concern are rare. North Carolina counts as one of the pioneer states to address the issue by means of their Racial Justice Act enacted by the legislature in 2009. If the road to get there was rough and riddled with obstacles, what came after can be considered an equally tough stretch in the endeavor to challenge racial discrimination impacting the death penalty. The Statute had been in effect for a mere three years before it got amended and, ultimately, abolished by the ensuing government. However, despite its short life span, the Racial Justice Act has enabled hearings to take place with extraordinary results: all four defendants who had filed motions and were heard on them, had their death sentences commuted and were resentenced to life imprisonment without parole. As the Statute has been characterized by wins as well as setbacks the question arises to what extent the Racial Justice Act has effectively countered racial bias in capital punishment. Hence, this thesis set outs to examine if and how it has advanced efforts against race discrimination impacting the death penalty.