Thursday, February 10, 2011

Racial Justice Act survives first test

Judge Wood today, in the Forsyth County cases of Moses and Moseley, ruled that the state had not met its burden in proving that the Racial Justice Act was unconstitutionally vague.

The state's arguments--that the law was so vague that it violated due process, was rejected by the court. These arguments were extremely weak and it is odd the court held multiple days worth of hearing on the issue.

The state's claim arises out of a (mis)understanding that the due process clause of the 14th amendment (which reads "nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law") somehow protects the state from deprivation in the form of not being allowing to execute individuals without due process of law (in the form of notice for non-vague statutes).

Nontheless, the court ignored this issue and heard the central claim on vagueness and rejected it, as the Racial Justice Act is no more vague than most criminal/capital statutes.

The court must now determine the procedure for managing the claims and ensure that the litigation is handled in an orderly manner and deal with the heart of the issue: studies that show widespread bias in capital punishment and state discrimination in jury selection.

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