Under the Dome

Dome: Racial Justice Act supporters rally one more time

May 22, 2013 

Supporters of the Racial Justice Act mounted an offensive Wednesday in hopes of beating back this session’s attempt to wipe the act off the books and resume executions.

On Wednesday morning, a House judiciary subcommittee took public input on SB306, which has passed the Senate and will be voted on in the subcommittee next week. Afterward, RJA supporters – including about a dozen legislators, two lawyers, a doctor and a relative of a murder victim – were part of the subsequent news conference.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Thom Goolsby, a Republican from Wilmington, would repeal the Racial Justice Act; allow doctors, nurses and pharmacists to participate in executions without retribution from licensing boards; and speed up the process leading to executions.

Dr. Robert Bilbro, a Raleigh internal medicine practitioner, said such a law would run contrary to the position adopted by the N.C. Medical Society and the American Medical Association.

“They can pass laws to manipulate what they say that a physician or surgeon can do, but that doesn’t change the ethical standards,” Bilbro said. “It potentially could erode the public trust in the profession, which at its heart is a profession of care and compassion and healing.”

Watching the news conference was Al Lowry, whose brother, Trooper Ed Lowry, was killed along with a sheriff’s deputy during a traffic stop in 1997 near Fayetteville. Afterward, he said the Racial Justice Act only provided an escape hatch for criminals to escape the death penalty, and had nothing to do with racial bias.

The Act, passed in 2009, allowed death-row inmates to try to have their sentences converted to life in prison without parole if they could prove racial bias in their cases, including through the use of statistics to show patterns of bias.

SAFER grants

The U.S. House Appropriations Committee’s 2014 funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security includes an amendment by Rep. David Price that would allow communities to use some grant funds to keep firefighters on the job.

The bill includes $675 million for Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grants. The money is used for equipment purchases and hiring. Price’s amendment allows the use of the funds to retain firefighters.

North Carolina communities received 10 SAFER grants worth more than $1.9 million last year.

Anti-abortion centers helped

An umbrella group of anti-abortion centers in North Carolina would receive $250,000 under the budget the Senate approved Wednesday.

Abortion-rights advocates claim the centers, sometimes known as crisis pregnancy centers, provide misleading information and coerce vulnerable young women. Representatives of the group, Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship, told The News & Observer in 2011 that its centers work hard to provide factual, impartial help to teens and women who are conflicted about their pregnancies.

The N&O reported at the time there were eight times as many anti-abortion centers in North Carolina as there were abortion clinics.

NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina investigated the centers in 2011 and reported finding incidents of the centers misinforming patients.

“Our lawmakers have a responsibility to protect women and families in our state by supporting programs that offer comprehensive, unbiased reproductive-health information,” Suzanne Buckley, executive director of the state chapter, said in a statement. “Crisis pregnancy centers do the opposite.”

Staff writer Craig Jarvis and Renee Schoof, McClatchy Washington Bureau

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