Under the Dome

Dome: Goolsby bill repeals already-gutted Racial Justice Act

March 13, 2013 

Resurrecting last session’s bruising battle over the death penalty in North Carolina, a Republican state senator on Wednesday filed a bill to wipe all traces of the Racial Justice Act off the books.

The 2009 law allowed statistics compiled statewide to be used to prove racial bias in the prosecution, jury selection or sentencing in capital cases. But prosecutors and Republican legislators contended the law was a smokescreen to prevent all executions by using broad statistics that didn’t have anything to do with individual cases.

Last session, the General Assembly passed a bill dramatically narrowing how those statistics could be used and putting more of the burden of proof on the convict. That, in effect, gutted the effectiveness of the RJA.

S.B. 306, filed by Sen. Thom Goolsby, a Wilmington Republican, repeals the RJA in its entirety. Goolsby announced the bill at a news conference attended by district attorneys from around the state, and relatives of murder victims.

The bill would apparently not bring an end to the claims that have already been filed under the Racial Justice Act, however.

Goolsby said the bill would “restart the death penalty in North Carolina to ensure justice for the more than 100 families whose loved ones were taken brutally from them.”

Tye Hunter, director of the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, in an interview noted that GOP legislators last session insisted they weren’t repealing RJA. “Now the mask is off,” Hunter said.

The bill also allows doctors, nurses and pharmacists to participate in executions without retribution from licensing boards. That was an issue several years ago when the state medical board prohibited doctors from executions; the state Supreme Court ruled against the medical board.

New abortion rules proposed

A bill filed Wednesday would tighten restrictions on abortions by requiring that the doctor performing the operation be physically present for the entire procedure, and remain on site until the patient has recovered enough to leave.

It would also require physicians who perform abortions to have admitting privileges to a hospital within 30 miles of the place where the procedure is performed.

The bill, S.B. 308, would be an addition to the Woman’s Right to Know Act, passed last session, that requires women seeking abortions to submit to an ultrasound examination and be told what the ultrasound shows.

Bill sponsors are Republican Sens. Warren Daniel of Morganton, Shirley Randleman of Wilkesboro and Neal Hunt of Raleigh.

Pope wants to lead GOP

Claude Pope Jr., a Brunswick County businessman and former Wake County party chairman, has announced his candidacy for state Republican Party chairman.

Pope, 52, hopes to succeed former U.S. Rep. Robin Hayes when the state Republican convention meets in Charlotte from June 7-9. Hayes said earlier this week that he would not seek a second full term.

“I want to provide strong support for county parties,” Pope said in a statement. “Coming from that background, I know there are ways the county organizations can make a huge difference in how their local governments are run.”

Traditionally, governors have a large say in choosing the party chairman. McCrory has not voiced his preference, although Pope has close ties to McCrory and to McCrory advisers Jack Hawke and state budget director Art Pope, who is a distant cousin.

Claude Pope chaired the Wake County Republican Party from 2009-2010 when Republicans won control of the Wake County school board and the Wake County Board of Commissioners.

Staff writers Craig Jarvis and Ro Christensen

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