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North Carolina governor vetoes repeal of death penalty racial justice law

North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue [official website] on Wednesday vetoed [signature, PDF] legislation [SB 9 materials] that would have essentially repealed the state's Racial Justice Act [text, PDF]. The 2009 law, which allows death row inmates to appeal their sentences based on statistical evidence of racism, was designed to address concerns that racial bias plays a role in sentencing. In an accompanying statement [text, PDF], Perdue said that while she is a strong supporter of the death penalty, "it is essentially that it be carried out fairly and that the process not be infected with prejudice based on race, gender, poverty, or any other factor." Perdue said, "I am vetoing Senate Bill 9 for the same reason that I signed the Racial Justice Act two years ago: it is simply unacceptable for racial prejudice to play a role in the imposition of the death penalty in North Carolina.

The death penalty remains a controversial issue across the US. Last month Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber issued a temporary reprieve for death row inmate Gary Haugen and called for an end [JURIST report] to the state's death penalty. Earlier that month the Connecticut Supreme Court [official website] upheld [JURIST report] the constitutionality of the state's death penalty law. Also in November the Ohio Supreme Court [official website] announced that it was forming a committee to ensure that the death penalty is not administered arbitrarily [JURIST report]. In March, Illinois abolished capital punishment [JURIST report], concluding that there was no way to rid the capital punishment system of its discriminatory flaws. In 2009, New Mexico repealed its death penalty [JURIST report] on similar grounds to Illinois, asserting that the state could not possibly administer the death penalty impartially.

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