Under the Dome

The families of murder victims denounce House vote on Racial Justice Act

June 14, 2012 

About two dozen state legislators, members of Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation and others held a news conference Thursday morning to denounce the House vote on Wednesday rewriting the Racial Justice Act.

They called it a complete repeal of the 2009 law, which allows death-row inmates to use statistical proof of racial bias in North Carolina jury selection to try to turn their sentences into life without parole. The bill so weakens the use of statistics as to make them nearly useless in most cases.

Rep. Earline Parmon, a Winston-Salem Democrat, who was one of the original sponsors of the Racial Justice Act, called the vote “appalling” for “knowingly allowing racial discrimination to continue in our justice system.”

Three people whose relatives were murdered also criticized the vote and called for the Senate to put the brakes on the bill. The Senate is expected to pass the bill along party lines. Five House Democrats voted for the bill, ensuring enough votes to override a veto, if the governor does that.

Darryl Hunt, the Winston-Salem man who spent more than 19 years in prison for a rape and murder that DNA later showed he did not commit, said Republicans’ claim that statistics are irrelevant in individual cases is wrong.

“I lived through four jury trials,” Hunt said. “I know how they use race to excuse African-Americans on juries.”

“I hope and pray our senators will not take up this bill,” he added.

‘No regrets’ in Edwards case

Former U.S. Attorney George Holding says he has no regrets about prosecuting former Sen. John Edwards, even though the case ultimately was not successful.

“Political corruption cases are the most difficult cases,” Holding told Politico, a Washington-based publication. “If we had not taken on these cases, not taken on this case, it would have been a dereliction of duty.”

Holding said he was not disappointed with the decision by Larry Breuer, chief of the Justice Department Criminal Division, to abandon the prosecution after a mistrial on most of the charges.

“This is the way our system works and I respect the jury’s verdict,” Holding said. “I respect Mr. Breuer’s decision. He’s had the final say on this case from day one. I didn’t attend the trial. ... I’m not in a position to question his opinion.”

Taxing politics

The political poker continued Thursday as the Senate debated a $20.1 billion budget approved along party lines. The budget now goes to the House.

A day following a Democratic play to get Republicans to affirm their support for what Democrats have dubbed the “tax cut for millionaires,” Republican Sen. Bob Rucho challenged Democrats to vote for the three-quarter-cent sales tax increase that Gov. Bev Perdue proposed and Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton supported.

The increase would allow Democrats to continue their “tax and spend” policies, Rucho said.

On Wednesday, Democrats tried to get a vote to limit a new $3,500 tax cut to businesses with incomes of $100,000 or less. The revenue from excluding wealthier businesses would go for schools and eugenics compensation, they said. Republicans used a parliamentary maneuver to avoid the vote.

Sen. Dan Blue, a Raleigh Democrat, said Rucho would rather tax everyday people rather the rich.

“Apparently, Sen. Rucho thinks this is a good idea,” Blue said. “You tax rank-and-file North Carolinians rather than taxing these millionaires that he excluded in the last session.”

The tax increase proposal died in a unanimous vote.

Staff writers Craig Jarvis, Lynn Bonner, Rob Christensen

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