The bill that would repeal North Carolina’s Racial Justice Act has not made it out of committee in the House of Representatives, but the bill’s authors are confident that it will pass and be signed during this session. Opponents of the Racial Justice Act have long contended that the law has served as a back-door elimination of the death penalty.
The act was not responsible for the unofficial moratorium, but the proposed legislation would remove the barriers that have kept the state from carrying out any executions since 2006. The concern was that doctors, nurses and pharmacists would be censured by their state licensing boards for participating in executions by lethal injection.
The bill simply states that the medical professional’s participation in an execution does not constitute the practice of medicine, nursing or pharmacy as defined by state boards. In this way, the bill clears the way for practitioners from other states to carry out North Carolina’s death penalty.
In the House, the question may not be whether to repeal the bill as much as it could be whether to halt existing appeals immediately. The vast majority of the 150 or so appeals have yet to be heard. If the bill nullifies them, more than a few inmates will have exhausted all of their appeals and will simply be awaiting execution. Under the bill, the Attorney General’s office will notify the Department of Public Safety when all avenues of appeal are closed to the inmate, and the Department of Public Safety will immediately schedule the execution no fewer than 30 days out but no more than 60 days from the date of the Attorney General’s notification.
Source: News & Observer, “NC Senate OKs repeal of Racial Justice Act,” Craig Jarvis and Anne Blythe, April 3, 2013
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