The Good: N.C. Supreme Court
It’s asinine that we’re still fighting over this, but here we are: Fourteen years after North Carolina last executed a person, the state Supreme Court dealt what should be a death blow to the antiquated notion of capital punishment in this state. In a pair of 6–1 decisions on Friday, the court ruled that the Racial Justice Act, which the General Assembly repealed in 2013, cannot be applied retroactively. In effect, this means that the majority of the 143 people on Death Row will get a chance to appeal their sentences on racial grounds; since we know North Carolina prosecutors were long taught how to circumvent U.S. Supreme Court strictures prohibiting racial discrimination in jury selection, there’s a good chance many of these appeals will prove fruitful. As Chief Justice Cheri Beasley admitted last week, systemic racism is infused into every part of the criminal justice system.
But let’s take a longer view: Since we stopped executing people, the state’s murder and violent crime rates haven’t gone up, so we can surmise that the death penalty didn’t work as a deterrent. With the majority of people on Death Row being Black, we can also surmise that race is at least a factor in how people are sentenced. So what’s the point in even trying to keep this system going?
The Bad: The Republican National Convention
Yes, negotiations over the Republican National Convention in Charlotte were running smoothly until President Trump interjected himself on Twitter, accusing Governor Cooper of playing politics with the COVID-19 crisis to deny the president a rapturous packed house for his acceptance speech. And yes, once the president butted in, there was little they could do but follow. Still, the degree of bad faith the RNC has displayed over the last few weeks—leading to Cooper telling them he wouldn’t budget and the GOP saying they’d take their convention elsewhere last week—has been astounding. The party never submitted a safety plan for the state to review, never came up with viable alternatives short of “cram ’em in, see what happens, maybe we’ll have some hand sanitizer around.” And then they put on a world-class pout when Cooper said that wasn’t good enough. Have fun in Jacksonville (or wherever).
The Awful: The Capitol’s Consolation Prizes
In the last week, as the George Floyd protests spread across the country, Jacksonville—the most conservative large city in the U.S.—removed a Confederate monument from a city park. Authorities removed Confederate monuments in Birmingham and Mobile, Alabama, too. Fredericksburg, Virginia, removed a 176-year-old slave auction block from its downtown. The United Daughters of the Confederacy had the good sense to remove their statue from Old Town in Alexandria. The state of Virginia was about to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee in Richmond, the home of the Confederacy, before a judge issued a temporary restraining order. That didn’t save a statue of another Confederate general; protesters toppled him themselves.
And yet, the Confederate monuments on North Carolina’s Capitol grounds remain, guarded against protesters by law enforcement, protected from removal by a state law enacted after a white supremacist gunned down nine people in a Black church and people elsewhere began to reevaluate the wisdom of honoring a Confederacy born in the blood of enslaved people.
Contact editor in chief Jeffrey C. Billman at email@example.com.
DEAR READERS, WE NEED YOUR HELP NOW MORE THAN EVER. Support independent local journalism by joining the INDY Press Club today. Your contributions will keep our fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle, coronavirus be damned.