Thursday, March 11, 2010

[indyweek] After "soul-searching," Racial Justice Act passes

by Matt Saldaña
August 12, 2009

After approving versions of roughly three dozen bills, hammering out a state budget and deliberating for more than three hours, the N.C. Senate had one item left on its agenda the night of Aug. 5: the Racial Justice Act. The Senate had passed a version of the landmark bill, which would prevent the execution of defendants on the basis of race. Yet it did so only after tacking on a controversial amendment—introduced by Senate Minority Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham)—that would simultaneously ensure the resumption of capital punishment in North Carolina.

When it came time for the Senate to concur with a "clean" House version that purged the controversial clauses, Sen. Floyd McKissick Jr. (D-Durham), the bill's sponsor, stood up, pointed his finger to the Senate chamber's door and left in a hurry. Later, the Senate recessed for nearly an hour while the Democrats held a private caucus on the bill.

At roughly 7:45 p.m., the Democrats emerged, and McKissick, who had delayed the vote twice in the past week to garner enough supporters, said, "I would simply ask my colleagues to concur."

[View the entire article at the Independent Weekly.]