North Carolina Supreme Court rules on Racial Justice Act hearings

Prisoner Appeal on Death Row

source: TIME News
published: 5 June 2020

In a sweeping decision released Friday, the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled that over 100 death row inmates have the opportunity to prove racism affected their sentences because they had filed a claim under the state’s Racial Justice Act (RJA) before it was repealed in 2013. If the defendants win their hearings, they’ll be re-sentenced to life without parole.

The ruling comes after years of legislative and legal proceedings over the RJA. Passed in 2009, the Act allowed North Carolina death row inmates to be re-sentenced to life without parole if they could prove race played a significant factor in their death sentence.

Andrew Ramseur, a 31-year-old black man, is the plaintiff in Friday’s state Supreme Court case North Carolina v. Ramseur. He is one of the death row defendants who had filed a RJA claim prior to the Act’s 2013 repeal but was subsequently never given a hearing. On Friday, the state’s Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional for the RJA’s repeal to have impacted his and other cases that were already pending.

The ruling comes amid mass protests across the U.S. to demand an end to systemic racism and justice for the murder of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who died in Minneapolis police custody on May 25.

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