Start Date: 8/4/2020 12:00 PM EDT
End Date: 8/4/2020 1:15 PM EDT
Webinar: Restoration of the North Carolina Racial Justice Act: Is Criminal Justice Transformation at Hand?
August 4, 2020, 12:00 p.m. Eastern, 75 minutes
Webinar Faculty: Henderson Hill, Executive Director of RedressNC; Gretchen Engel, Executive Director of the Center for Death Penalty Litigation (CDPL); and Emily Coward, Project Attorney, NC Racial Equity Network, UNC School of Government
About the Webinar: On June 5th, the North Carolina Supreme Court issued two landmark civil rights rulings on the NC Racial Justice Act (RJA), clearing the way for a much-needed review of racial discrimination in death penalty cases across the state. Passed in 2009 and repealed in 2013, the RJA allows death-sentenced people to bring forward evidence of racism in their trials. Those who prove that race was a significant factor in their sentences are resentenced to life in prison without parole. The law’s passage marked the first time a death penalty state allowed for a systematic review of racial bias in capital cases.
These opinions signal the beginning of a new, promising chapter in the RJA story: the Court found that the retroactive application of the RJA repeal violates the ex post facto clause of the NC Constitution, meaning that nearly all of the people on North Carolina's death row will have an opportunity to seek relief from their death sentences under the statute.
During this webinar, we will interview two attorneys who have been deeply involved in the RJA since before its passage in 2009: Gretchen Engel, Executive Director of the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, and Henderson Hill, Director of RedressNC. Engel and Hill will describe the advocacy that led to the passage of the original act in 2009, the use of data revealing racial disparities in capital trials, the litigation of RJA claims, the success of the individual petitioners in North Carolina Superior Court, the legislature's repeal of the RJA, and the post-repeal litigation, focusing on the consequences and implications of these latest rulings.
About the Faculty: Henderson Hill is the Executive Director of RedressNC. He is a trial attorney specializing in criminal defense and civil rights, community activist, non-profit leader, policy consultant, and NC Racial Justice Act appellate counsel. He received his JD from Harvard Law School.
Gretchen Engel is the Executive Director of the Center for Death Penalty Litigation (CDPL). She joined CDPL in 1992, after graduating from Northeastern University School of Law and interning at the Southern Center for Human Rights and the Alabama Resource Center. Gretchen grew up largely in the Great Lakes region and received her BA from Oberlin College. In 2004, she received the Paul Green Award from the NC-ACLU Legal Foundation for her work against the death penalty.
Emily Coward leads the NC Racial Equity Network within the UNC School of Government's Public Defense Education Group. She is the co-author of Raising Issues of Race in North Carolina Criminal Cases. She earned a BA from Oberlin College and a JD from Duke University School of Law.