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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Due Process

RALEIGH – On Wednesday, June 5, the North Carolina House of Representatives approved S.B. 306, a bill that seeks to restart executions in North Carolina and would repeal the Racial Justice Act (RJA), a historic civil rights law that seeks to address racial bias in the state’s death penalty system by allowing death-row inmates to appeal their sentences and receive life without parole if they can show that race was a factor in their sentencing. The North Carolina Senate has already approved the bill once, and it now goes back to the Senate for concurrence.

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina (ACLU-NC) released the following statement:

“The Racial Justice Act has made it possible to shine a light on widespread and indisputable evidence of racial bias in North Carolina’s death penalty system that needs to be addressed,” said ACLU-NC Policy Director Sarah Preston. “It would be beyond tragic if North Carolina turns its back on that evidence and haphazardly rushes to restart executions, knowing full well that our capital punishment process is plagued by racial bias and other flaws that might very well lead to the execution of innocent people. Even those who support the death penalty should agree that capital sentences must be handed down impartially and with respect for due process, yet this bill makes it harder, if not impossible, to achieve that goal.”

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By Esha Bhandari, ACLU Equal Justice Works Fellow

This week's New Yorker features the harrowing ordeal of Mark Lyttle, a U.S. citizen with mental disabilities who was deported to Mexico. Lyttle was born in North Carolina and has psychiatric and cognitive disabilities. He was inexplicably referred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in 2008 after being misidentified as an undocumented immigrant from Mexico even though he had never been to Mexico, shared no Mexican heritage, and did not speak any Spanish. As the New Yorker article notes, "Lyttle is brown-skinned," and "the vagaries of race and ethnicity obviously played a part" in causing him to be singled out for immigration enforcement.

ICE detained Lyttle for 51 days, despite substantial evidence that he is a U.S. citizen, and put him in removal proceedings, where he was forced to defend himself without ever having the assistance of a lawyer. Lyttle was ordered removed in December 2008, and forced to cross the Mexican border on foot with only $3 in his pocket. Lyttle endured 125 days wandering through Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Guatemala, sleeping in streets and shelters, and even being imprisoned in a Honduran jail, before he was finally referred to a U.S. consular officer in Guatemala who actually listened to his story. The officer obtained confirmation of Lyttle's U.S. citizenship by calling one of his brothers who serves in the U.S. military. Only through the extensive efforts of Lyttle's family and a lawyer was he finally able to return.

Lyttle's tale is unfortunately far from unique. Although no exact numbers exist, ICE regularly detains and deports U.S. citizens without ever providing them with a lawyer. And the U.S. continues to run a system of detention and deportation that fails adequately to protect the rights of vulnerable individuals like Lyttle.

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By Cassandra Stubbs, ACLU Capital Punishment Project

In 2009, North Carolina made history by becoming the first state to pass a law that addressed the systemic problems of racial discrimination in jury selection in capital cases. In the three years since the Racial Justice Act (RJA) was enacted, this law has uncovered systemic discrimination. In four cases, North Carolina death row inmates presented sweeping evidence that racial discrimination in jury selection tainted their trials, and had their death sentences converted to life without parole under the law.

For the last year, the North Carolina legislature has been working to overturn this important legislation – the most recent threat to justice coming this week with the vote by State Senate repeal the RJA. North Carolina needs to preserve the RJA, as it should serve as model legislation that all states should adopt to stamp out the racial discrimination that runs rampant in capital cases nationwide.

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RALEIGH – The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation (ACLU-NCLF) and ACLU affiliates in 22 other states today simultaneously filed public records requests to determine the extent to which local police departments are using federally subsidized military technology and tactics that are traditionally used overseas.

“North Carolinians deserve to know how much their local police are using military weapons and tactics for everyday policing,” said Chris Brook, ACLU-NCLF Legal Director. “Across the country, local law enforcement agencies are increasingly using military equipment to conduct traditional law enforcement activities. We need to make sure these resources and tactics are deployed only with rigorous oversight and strong legal protections.”

The ACLU-NCLF filed public record requests with 64 of the state’s largest local law enforcement agencies (listed below), seeking information on the use of:

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