The Racial Justice Act?
The History of the RJA.
Under the landmark McCleskey v. Kemp case, the Supreme Court of the United States (“SCOTUS”) established a precedent that has left the courts unable to effectively address racial discrimination in criminal cases. Various studies, dating from several decades past to present, have found that the jury selection process, prosecutorial charging decisions, and jury sentencing are commonly identified as gateways for racial bias to infiltrate the court system.
The North Carolina Racial Justice Act (“RJA”), ratified in August 2009, provided that no person shall be subject to or given a sentence of death or shall be executed pursuant to any judgment that was sought or obtained on the basis of race.
Architects of the North Carolina RJA relied on a study from Michigan State University (“MSU”) which showed that prosecutors used peremptory strikes to remove qualified Black jurors at more than twice the rate that they excluded white jurors. Of the 159 prisoners now on death row in North Carolina, 31 were sentenced by all-white juries, and another 38 had only one person of color on their sentencing juries.
In 2013, the North Carolina RJA was repealed via political leadership change. Since then, Texas introduced an RJA in 2013 and California introduced a version of the RJA that is available to all felony charges and sentencing.
Although the RJA was repealed in 2013, the appeals process for individuals that filed claims during the time period that the RJA was in effect still continues today.
The RJA in Action.
Recently, Andrew Ramseur, a North Carolina death row inmate who challenged his sentencing, challenged the RJA repeal claiming that the amendment, which facilitated the repeal, violated ex post facto laws in retroactively depriving him of his previously filed RJA claim. The Court found in Ramseur’s favor on June 5, 2020.
Tilmon Golphin, Marcus Robinson, Christina Walters and Quintel Augustine, individuals similarly situated to Ramseur, received a judgment in their favor in 2012, citing not only evidence of systemic statewide and countywide racial bias, but also evidence of racial bias in each individual case, particularly during jury selection. Their cases will also be reheard.
Contact us through social media or at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are looking for community coalition partners in order to make the vision of racial equality reflective of our state as a whole. Partnership with the RJC of Nebraska does not cost any time, money, or effort.
Founder and Executive Director
Kaitlin (Kate) Farley