The North Carolina General Assembly has approved a landmark bill that will allow death-row inmates to challenge the death penalty by arguing that there is systemic racial bias in the way that capital punishment has been applied, reports the Winston-Salem Journal. Under the bill, called the Racial Justice Act, an inmate will be able to present statistical evidence showing racial disparities in how the death penalty has been used. If a judge finds the evidence convincing, the judge can overturn that inmate’s death sentence and convert it to a sentence of life in prison.
The bill is seen by its supporters as a long-overdue solution to a history of discrimination that they say permeates the criminal-justice system and the system of capital punishment. In both legislative chambers, Republicans opposed the bill, and most Democrats supported it. Gov. Bev Perdue, a Democrat, is expected to sign it into law. Only Kentucky has a similar state law.