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Viewpoints

N.C. bishops thank governor for vetoing repeal of Racial Justice Act

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RALEIGH — Both of North Carolina's bishops, Bishop Peter Jugis and Bishop Michael Burbidge, have thanked Gov. Bev Perdue for her Dec. 14 veto of an effort by legislators to repeal a two-year-old law that lets death row inmates appeal their sentences on the basis of racial bias.

The state's Racial Justice Act, which Perdue signed into law in 2009, allows prisoners sentenced to death to use statistics to determine if race was a factor in their sentencing.

Both bishops had written a letter Nov. 30 to Perdue asking her to uphold the Racial Justice Act. Last week, they sent a second letter to the governor thanking her for the veto.

The Bishops have also urged Catholic Voice participants to contact their legislators, asking them not to override the governor's veto.

The state Senate had voted earlier to repeal the act, which aims to reject the influence of race discrimination in the administration of the death penalty, through Senate Bill 9, called the "No Discriminatory Purpose in the Death Penalty."

"We urge you to continue to keep North Carolina on the path to justice for all of its citizens that is guaranteed by the Racial Justice Act," the bishops wrote in their letter, asking her to veto the Senate's new bill.

Others voicing their support for the 2009 Racial Justice Act included the N.C. NAACP and People of Faith Against the Death Penalty.

For updates on this and other efforts by the N.C. bishops through their non-partisan advocacy website, Catholic Voice North Carolina, go to www.catholicvoicenc.org.

— Patricia L. Guilfoyle, editor

Editor's note: Here are the full texts of the N.C. bishops' letters:

December 16, 2011

Dear Governor Perdue,

We write to thank you for your decision to veto the No Discriminatory Purpose in the Death Penalty Act. Your action is an important step in working to ensure a fair and balanced justice system in North Carolina in capital murder cases.

We appreciate the consistency you have demonstrated since you first championed the Racial Justice Act in 2009.

----------------------------

Dear Governor Perdue,

In enacting the Racial Justice Act in 2009 the North Carolina General Assembly made clear that North Carolina rejects the influence of race discrimination in the administration of the death penalty. That was a laudatory goal two years ago and remains so today. Thank you for signing that legislation.

As the bill, No Discriminatory Purpose in the Death Penalty, which would repeal that historic measure, awaits action by you, we urge you to continue to keep North Carolina on the path to justice for all of its citizens that is guaranteed by the Racial Justice Act.

Please veto the No Discriminatory Purpose in the Death Penalty act.

Sincerely,

The Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge

Bishop of Raleigh

The Most Reverend Peter J. Jugis

Bishop of Charlotte

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