Blake, Boles Favored 'Justice Act' Repeal
Legislative action to repeal the Racial Justice Act is before Gov. Beverly Perdue, who signed the bill into law two years ago.
Her office did not indicate on Tuesday whether she would sign or veto the new bill.
Repeal was a major piece of business before the Republican-dominated North Carolina General Assembly, which convened Sunday for a special session to take up a few remaining issues before the end of the calendar year.
However, an effort by the House to set a cap on the state gasoline tax fell by the wayside when the Senate adjourned at midnight Monday without taking action on the measure.
“We will look at it next year,” state Sen. Harris Blake said of the gas tax cap bill.
State Rep. Jamie Boles said he supported the tax bill, which would have capped the tax at 35 cents a gallon until July 1. The bill would have placed a temporary cap on increases scheduled automatically on Jan. 1 and July 1, based on a formula connected with the wholesale gas price.
The bill for the temporary cap was designed to help the flagging economy and put more money into the hands of consumers.
Both Moore County legislators supported repeal of the Racial Justice Act, which was strongly recommended by the state organization of district attorneys.
Boles said he had discussed the bill several times with Moore County District Attorney Maureen Krueger, who also favored the change.
“I felt pretty confident sticking with the bill we passed,” Blake said. “I really believe that we have moved beyond any racial bias in the courts.”
Blake said that with the existing technology and the time frame involved in the appeal process, the courts are in a position to set aside racial bias when it comes to meting out death sentences in capital cases.
Boles said the legislature’s action does not actually repeal the bill so much as it tweaks the statistical section of the bill adopted in 2009. The bill approved this week was the same bill adopted by the House at a previous session this year. This time the Senate voted to concur with the House.
The original bill allows a person sentenced to death to use statistical evidence of racial bias as part of the appeal process.
If the death row inmate successfully proves the case, then the inmate is not released but is sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Prosecutors and other critics argued that the bill has attracted a rash of frivolous appeals with no basis in racial bias and has clogged the state appeal calendar. Among the complaints cited are some cases in which the Racial Justice Act has been used in appeals of cases of a white person killing another white person.
Among the bills before the House this week was a measure that would authorize counties to combine their health and social services departments in order to save administrative costs. This bill was requested by the N.C. Association of County Commissioners.
Boles was not certain whether the bill would emerge from committee before adjournment.
The House was scheduled to reconvene at noon Tuesday, but Boles was expecting the session to be brief with approval of an adjournment resolution the major item on the agenda.
Both Boles and Blake were in Raleigh Tuesday morning for committee meetings. Although the Senate had adjourned the night before, Blake was present for an oversight committee meeting.
The legislature is not scheduled to reconvene until May for its budget “short” session. The return may be earlier, since the legislative website indicates that the Senate may reconvene in mid-February.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at email@example.com.
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