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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Right-wing fear-mongers hot on the hype trail over N.C. Racial Justice Act

Posted By on Tue, Dec 27, 2011 at 2:02 PM

If you can't support your argument with raw facts, cook them up at a high temperature and add a heaping tablespoon of fear.

At least, that's the way some members of North Carolina's right wing seem to operate. This morning's News & Observer in Raleigh reports that "most of the state's district attorneys and Republicans in the General Assembly" are yelling that the N.C. Racial Justice Act could lead to numerous death-row inmates being set free on parole.

"Assuming just one defendant does win under their interpretation of the statute, you can apply that to every other case," Forsyth County District Attorney Mike Silver tells the N&O's Craig Jarvis. "There are approximately 119 inmates who could make the same argument."

Never mind the unlikelihood of that outcome. "The chances are zero," Robert Mosteller told Jarvis.

Mosteller should know. An associate dean at UNC Chapel Hill's School of Law, he co-authored an exhaustive 2010 N.C. Law Review article, "The Racial Justice Act and the Long Struggle with Race and the Death Penalty in North Carolina." He also litigated the precedent-setting case of death-row inmate John Wesley Oliver, who was re-sentenced to life imprisonment in 2001. Mosteller calls the anti-Racial Justice Act arguments "frivolous. It is completely political."

Other experts on the Racial Justice Act agree, according to the N&O story:

Supporters of the bill note that the wording in the Racial Justice Act is clear that the only result of a successful claim is life without parole . . . Supporters of the act insist prisoners give up their right to argue for parole once they pursue a claim under it. N.C. Prisoner Legal Services, for instance, pledges it will not represent inmates seeking to set aside a life without parole sentence obtained under the act, because it would be frivolous.

Read the full story here.

For more on the Racial Justice Act, you can download Mosteller's N.C. Law Journal study here.

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