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.
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:
In a front-page story published in today’s USA Today, the results of our investigation of the comingling of local law enforcement agencies and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) in the southeast were made public. During a “seatbelt” checkpoint conducted last May by the Jackson County, North Carolina Sheriff’s Office, ICE implemented one of its many initiatives to ensure that the number of criminal deportations achieved the prior year’s level. In simpler terms: a quota.
Why were ICE officers concerned with enforcing local seatbelt laws, you may be wondering? They weren’t. They were there to interrogate drivers about their immigration status. Many U.S. citizens and lawful residents were detained for up to 45 minutes on their way to work to prove their immigration status, and fifteen aspiring citizens were taken into ICE custody that morning.
The ACLU of North Carolina launched an investigation into this checkpoint, which included a Freedom of Information Act request to ICE. The findings were disturbing. Along with implementing a policy of participating in checkpoints throughout the southeast, ICE also proposed rummaging through North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles records for immigrants who applied for a driver’s license but could not meet the immigration requirements imposed by a 2006 state law. Another ICE initiative was to deem individuals with no operator’s license as criminal aliens.
The U.S. Department of Justice filed a civil rights lawsuit against Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson on Dec. 20, charging that under his direction, the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) has systematically and unlawfully targeted Latino residents for investigation, traffic stops, arrests, seizures, and other enforcement actions since at least 2007. The lawsuit asks a federal court to order Sheriff Johnson to refrain from discriminatory policing and for the ACSO to adopt and implement policies that would constitutionally protect and serve all county residents.
The ACLU and other groups have been receiving complaints about Johnson, his deputies, and their treatment of Latinos for years. But some of the alleged examples of Sheriff Johnson’s own prejudice and policing style outlined in the federal lawsuit – which resulted from a two-year investigation and interviews with more than 100 witnesses – are truly shocking.