The death penalty is a long and torturous process that I would call cruel and unusual punishment. An inmate is sentenced to death, but often waits on “death row” for decades as he appeals his sentence. The constant threat of imminent death, I would assume, is daunting and a burden to carry for all those years. Granted, I understand that most on death row have committed heinous crimes, like cold-blooded murder. Still, I believe they still deserve humane treatment while incarcerated. And waiting decades on death row is not humane.
On top of that, the death penalty is carried out with discrimination. When the victim is white, the defendant is several times more likely to receive the death penalty than if the victim was of color, according to the ACLU and Amnesty International.
The disproportion between the number of defendants on death row who have killed whites versus those on death row for killing a minority race is alarming- whether we want to admit it or not. Racism is imbedded into society and our institutions. It has become so much apart of everyday life that we often mistake it for something else or do not see it all together.
This (unintentional) racism with the death penalty is about to stand trial in North Carolina.
According to BBC, Marcus Reymond Robinson, who was convicted of murdering Erik Tornblom in 1991 and sentenced to death, has appealed his death sentence using North Carolina’s Racial Justice Act in the hope that he can get his sentenced changed to life in prison without parole.
The Racial Justice Act was a law passed in North Carolina that allows death row inmates who are appealing their sentence to present evidence of racial bias in the courtroom.
According to BBC’s article, “under North Carolina’s RJA, Defendants are eligible for a life sentence without parole if they can show that they were more likely to receive the death penalty because of their race or the race of their victims.” They can use statistical evidence, not just evidence relating to their case, in order to prove that a racial bias existed.
This task is not easy. Proving that a courtroom intentionally had a racial bias when deciding the death penalty is not easy. And getting a judge to see that this occurred is not easy- even though the facts are starring everyone in the face.