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House Votes to Nullify Racial Justice Act

Lawmakers in the House have voted to nullify a 2009 law that allows death row prisoners to contest their sentences on the basis of racial bias. The law, called the Racial Justice Act, allows a judge to commute a condemned prisoner's sentence to life in prison if he or she determines the case was tainted by race. Republican representative Justin Burr says the law has forced prosecutors to spend too much time reviewing old cases.

Justin Burr: "In my opinion, this legislation will move North Carolina back in the right direction, and will make sure and ensure that we are saving the resources of the court system that are not spent in situations like this. We are currently only one of two states that have a law like this and I believe that's two too many."
But those who are opposed to repealing the Racial Justice Act say the procedure works by allowing defendants to use statistics to show a history of discrimination in capital cases. The bill was returned to the Senate last night, where lawmakers sent it to a committee. It's expected to be taken up again next year.

Jessica Jones covers both the legislature in Raleigh and politics across the state. Before her current assignment, Jessica was given the responsibility to open up WUNC's first Greensboro Bureau at the Triad Stage in 2009. She's a seasoned public radio reporter who's covered everything from education to immigration, and she's a regular contributor to NPR's news programs. Jessica started her career in journalism in Egypt, where she freelanced for international print and radio outlets. After stints in Washington, D.C. with Voice of America and NPR, Jessica joined the staff of WUNC in 1999. She is a graduate of Yale University.
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