Just a few hours ago, Rep. Bill Faison from Orange County released the following statement, calling on Governor Beverly Perdue to veto SB 9. Here are his powerful words:
We are a nation and a people of laws. Our laws and procedures keep both the government and
powerful people from running over us as individuals. I have worked hard in the Legislature to
protect people. In contests between rich and powerful businesses and people, I always choose
people. In contests between the power of governments and individual rights, I always choose
individuals. Our laws are our shield and protection and the heart of those laws are the steps
required before any penalties can be imposed.
It is hard to imagine anyone saying it is ‘ok’ to impose a ‘death penalty’ rather than ‘life in
prison without benefit of parole’ just because of someone’s race, no matter what the race may
be. It is worth remembering that 72 percent of North Carolinians support life in prison without
the possibility of parole as the most appropriate punishment for first degree murder according
to an Elon University poll conducted in 2009.
Two years ago, the Legislature passed a law making it clear that race cannot be a factor in
imposing the death penalty. More than two thirds of North Carolinians support what this law
does according to Public Policy Polling. The hurdles to proving race as a factor are tough to
meet, and the same trial judges who impose death sentences hear the evidence. The steps for
proof allow consideration of testimony from prosecutors, law enforcement officers, jurors,
lawyers and other members of the criminal justice system as well as statistical evidence. The
judge is searching for the truth. Reliable information helps the judge reach a decision.
Sometimes that truth lies in the cold hard mathematical numbers, but no matter where the
truth lies, it should be on the table. Remember, even if race is found to be a factor, then the
Sentence becomes life in prison without the possibility of parole. –
-1-This law, The Racial Justice Act, was led by NC House by Reps. Larry Womble and Earline
Parmon, and Senator Floyd McKissick. I co-sponsored the bill in the House and shepherded it
through the committee I chaired, Ways and Means. On the floor of the House, I argued along
with others for its passage, saying, “no man should be executed for the color of his skin.” The
bill passed the House on a party line vote. On final reading, all voting Democrats but one voted
for it and all voting Republicans voted against it. Within five days of being presented to the
Governor, I stood with the Acts’ principle sponsors and many of my colleagues in the Old House
Chamber in the Capital as the Governor signed the bill in a very public ceremony. North
Carolina was the second state to pass landmark Racial Justice legislation.
The Republicans continue focusing on a radical social agenda rather than focusing on the
State’s high rate of unemployment and the economy. Now, they have repealed the Racial
Justice Act in a rushed, post-Thanksgiving mini session of the General Assembly that cost the NC
taxpayers $150,000. Meanwhile, they do not have any meaningful plans for dealing with the
economic problems and the unemployment crisis that we all face. The Republicans’ focus on a
radical social agenda is sacrificing our children’s education and their future. The Republicans
have cut jobs for teachers and teachers’ aides. They have cut school funding, dropping us to
49th nationally in per pupil spending. Education is the escalator to success and they are trying to
unplug the escalator. They have even gone after women, treating them as if neither they nor
their doctors have enough sense to do what is needed to provide for their personal medical
care. They are wasting over a million dollars of our money on “do-nothing” legislative sessions
and constitutional amendments that do nothing to change the existing law.
African Americans have been hit harder by the Great Recession than folks in general. The
jobless rate among African Americans is about twice that of the rest of the State. Moreover, the
loss of wealth in the recession hit African Americans three times harder that other folks. Rather
than looking for ways to help the African American community recover the Republicans are
focused on issues that promote racial divide rather than racial unity. We are one people. We
are Americans and we are North Carolinians. This is not the way we treat each other and not
the way we ought to be treating each other.
The Governor signed the Racial Justice Act into law in a public ceremony within five of its
passage. The radical Republican repeal of the Act was presented to the Governor on November
29. Almost two weeks have passed and the Governor has not vetoed this divisive, misguided
legislation. I call on the Governor to veto this bill now. I call on the Republican Leadership in the
General Assembly to set aside their radical social agenda and go to work on the economic and
educational issues that matter to all of us.