North Carolina Rep. Rick Glazier and others called on leaders across the country Wednesday to scrutinize the death penalty and its application to help prevent executing innocent inmates. Glazier, a Democrat, spoke in the legislative auditorium as part of a panel that included legal scholars, a filmmaker, a minister and a Chicago Tribune investigative journalist, reports the Raleigh News and Observer. The discussion stemmed from the national premiere of a documentary, “At the Death House Door.” The film explores the effects of the death penalty on those closest to the process — mainly the condemned inmates and a death row chaplain who was responsible for comforting them before the execution.
Two themes quickly emerged during the discussion: the effect of race on criminal cases and wrongful convictions. On Wednesday, Glazier wore a button encouraging people to “Support the Racial Justice Act.” Co-sponsor for that legislation, he said that race can not be ignored as factor in convictions. “There is too much anecdotal and statistical evidence to say that race doesn’t play a role, because it does,” he said. The Racial Justice Act would allow condemned inmates to use statistics to try to prove their race was the reason prosecutors sought the death penalty against them.