Thursday, February 16, 2012

PA to follow NC in Addressing Racial Bias in Death Penalty

Racism has been a blemish on the record of the United States since the colonial era. Despite many laws, acts and movements to abolish racism, it unfortunately still remains prominent in society. Now, we claim that racial discrimination does not occur in our country, such as during a trial where a black male could be sentenced to death. However, many factors point to racist tendencies in the courtroom, but some states, such as North Carolina, are fighting back.

The first case involving North Carolina’s Racial Justice Act has concluded. It involves Marcus Robinson, who was convicted of murder in 1994. The RJA allows death row inmates to present evidence of racial bias to a judge, and if the judge rules that there was racial injustice present throughout the process that inmate’s sentence will be changed to life without parole. Robinson’s case is the first under the RJA that will hopefully set the bar for the 150 cases to follow.

Robinson’s defense is arguing that prosecutors did not allow African Americans to serve on the jury based on the color of their skin. A Michigan State University study showed that in more than 173 death penalty trials from 1990-2010 prosecutors struck black jurors more than twice as often as non-black jurors.

Philadelphia took a very proactive approach in preventing African Americans from serving on a jury. District Attorneys in Philadelphia underwent training sessions, during which they were taught how to effectively hide racial bias while eliminating blacks from the jury pool.  

Quotes from the tape include:
“Let’s face it, … there’s the blacks from the low-income areas[,] … you don’t want those people on your jury.”


“You know, in selecting blacks, you don’t want the real educated ones.”

Do you find it hard to believe that this sort of racism still exists in America? Watch the video for yourself:

Pennsylvania’s version of the Racial Justice Act, House Bill 1996, is scheduled to be introduced to the House next week. Although there is currently a study underway in PA regarding the death penalty, the House needs to pass HB1996 now to prevent anyone from being unjustly executed.

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