The North Carolina legislature has overridden Gov. Bev Perdue’s veto of a bill rolling back a state law giving death-row prisoners a way to seek a reduced sentence because of racial bias, reports the Associated Press. Changes to the 2009 Racial Justice Act become law because at least 60 percent of the legislators in each chamber voted to override. The veto was overridden despite arguments it would turn a blind eye to racism in the criminal justice system.
Most local district attorneys and other death-penalty supporters argue the scaled-back law will rely less on statistics they say were misleading and untie a logjam over the carrying out of executions in North Carolina. The state’s last execution was in 2006. “With today’s override of the governor’s veto, the end of the moratorium is in sight,” said House Majority Leader Paul Stam. “The basic principle of justice is restored: individual responsibility.” Lawmakers who supported the Racial Justice Act said the changes gutted the law and will make it impossible for defendants to prove discrimination in the sentencing of a convicted murderer or in the composition of jurors hearing a case. A judge who finds that race was a significant factor could reduce a death sentence to life in prison without parole.