Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Outlier Magazine is working on a story about Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Donald W. Stephens for the December 2011 edition. However, we are taking a moment to address attempts to repeal The Racial Justice Act. The Racial Justice Act has to do with the death penalty and it allows people sentenced to death, to appeal on the grounds of racial bias. A study found a defendant will be 2.6 times more likely to be put to death if the victim in the case is white, and out of 159 people on death row at the time of the study, 31 had all-white juries and 38 had only one person of color on the jury. Imagine if you were white, accused of killing a black man and the entire jury were black. Of course you'd have not problem with that...or would you? However, according to the N&O, the N.C. Conference of District Attorneys wants the act repealed. The president, Susan Doyle, Johnston County DA, says "If you do not address this issue quickly, the criminal justice system will be saddled with litigation ...” We all know litigation is so much worse than killing the wrong guy...right? The one problem that nobody seems to want to address, however, is what do we do about the racial bias in the judiciary? These DAs are not offering any additional checks and balances to prevent the undeniable racial bias that generated the need for The Racial Justice Act. There is also a large disparity between races when it comes to sentencing convicts to Death Row. Looking just at the federal death penalty data released by the Department of Justice between 1995–2000, 682 defendants were charged with death-eligible crimes. Out of those 682 defendants, the defendant was black 48% of the cases, Hispanic in 29% of the cases, and white in only 20% of the cases. A study of Wake County, North Carolina found that African Americans had bail set 18% higher than whites charged with similar crimes. The median white household in the United States is worth $113,149. The median wealth for a Hispanic household is $6,325. For blacks, the figure is a meager $5,677. That means when a judge sets bail for both a white and black defendant at $50,000, its like actually setting it at $996,556 for the typical black defendant. If they are setting it 18% higher for the black defendant....Damn! When Judge Stephens was informed of this disparity, he simply cautioned the judges to just write down some reason for these harsher bail limits...like an educated racist judge wouldn't be able to figure out something to scribble down and just decide to adjudicate the cases fairly. Imagine if the study discovered the judges Stephens supervises, were setting higher bail for anyone with blond hair or with Jewish surnames. We don't think his response would have been so niggardly. In North Carolina, judges are elected and serve 8 LONG years! Now, finally, the next election is our chance to say we've had enough of this judicially defective King. Most voters elect judges because they've heard their name somewhere or they've seen a photo of him once and he looks like a judge sent down from central casting, but they really don't know who they are or what their record contains. Outlier seeks to turn that around this time. Stay tuned...

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