RALEIGH, N.C., July 2 (Reuters) - North Carolina's Republican-led legislature voted on Monday to override Democratic Governor Beverly Perdue's veto of a law that will limit the ability of death-row prisoners to use statistical evidence of racial bias to challenge their sentences.
The move effectively negates the hot-button Racial Justice Act, which was signed into law in 2009 by Perdue when Democrats controlled the state's General Assembly. The law directed judges to reduce a death sentence to life in prison if defendants could prove that racial bias factored into their punishment.
Lawmakers who viewed the landmark law as an attempt to undermine the death penalty wrote new legislation to gut it, only to see Perdue veto the rollback last week on the grounds that it rendered the original law meaningless.
But legislators on Monday gathered the three-fifths majority needed in the House of Representatives and Senate to override Perdue's veto. They had fallen short in January of enough votes to override a gubernatorial veto of similar rewrite legislation passed in 2011.
Proponents of Monday's move said statistical evidence alone was insufficient to prove racial discrimination in jury selection, or to overturn a death sentence.
"We have people who have been rightfully convicted of cold-blooded murder in the first degree," said Republican state Senator Thom Goolsby.
He said the Racial Justice Act was "nothing but a back-door attempt to get rid of the death penalty."
The Senate voted 31-11 to override Perdue's veto. The subsequent 72-48 vote in the House notched exactly the number of approval votes needed for a three-fifths majority of members present. Read more...