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Making the Most of Victory

The results of the recent election were a mixed bag at best, but not without good news.  By far the best was California's not-that-close rejection of the massively funded, if dishonest, attempt to repeal the death penalty  --  an achievement I celebrated here.  Kent followed up by explaining how we should build on our victory by mending the DP  --  not by more layers of pointless review, but by, among other things, eliminating the ones that exist now.

The death penalty did not win a direct victory on the East Coast, but the results in North Carolina can be highly useful.  As the Wall Street Journal notes, the state elected pro-death penalty Governor, Republican Pat McCrory, and heavy Republican majorities in the state legislature.  This makes possible the wholesale repeal of North Carolina's notorious "Racial Justice Act."  The Act's stated purpose was to redress alleged racism in capital cases, but its actual purpose (and effect) was to abolish the death penalty without ever having to say so  --  or, thus, be politically accountable for the result.

With the help of some courageous Democrats, the outgoing legislature partly repealed the Racial Justice Act.  Now, however, North Carolinians no longer have to settle for that half-measure.  The new legislature should repeal what remains of the Act.  Indeed, it should go further by, at the minimum, declaring that race may not be considered in any way in deciding whether to impose a death sentence.  As Chief Justice Roberts once said (in a different context), the way to stop discriminating on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.  The only way to achieve true racial justice is to put the consideration of race where it belongs  --  on history's junk heap.

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