DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" ""> Who Killed Theresa?: 07/01/2009 - 08/01/2009

Friday, July 31, 2009

A Very Nice Response from WUNC's Senior Producer

"My name is Susan Davis and I'm the Senior Producer of "The State of Things," which is a production of North Carolina Public Radio/WUNC, which is an affiliate of National Public Radio.

I appreciate your thoughtful emails and your blog posts about this summer's special programming, "Law & Order Week." It's the second time we have dedicated a week to law and order in North Carolina. I refer you to the first time: July 16, 2007 through July 20, 2007. That week we spent an hour with Regina Lane, a crime victim:

Our special programming weeks are not meant to be comprehensive nor have they ever been presented as comprehensive. I apologize if we failed to meet your expectations.
We have also spoken with the family members of crime victims on the program in the past:

The voices of crime victims are vital, crucial voices in our community and we will continue to feature them, and consider more and better ways to include them on our program as we pursue future topics and ideas.

I appreciate your keen ear and hope that you will continue to listen and continue to communicate with me when you have questions and concerns.

Susan Davis
Senior Producer"


Thursday, July 30, 2009

NPR & A Call To Crime Victims

Tomorrow marks the end ofNational Public Radio's The State of Things week long program dedicated to the criminal justice system.  Dubbed "Law and Order Week", the lunch-time, hour long program has profiled elements of criminal justice including:

- The lack of social services to support offenders (Monday)

- Racial profiling (Monday)

- Legal reform (Tuesday)

- The role "legal fiction" plays in all of this (Tuesday)

- The war on drugs (Wednesday)

- Rehabilitation and re-entry of offenders (Thursday)

- Prisoners rights (Friday)

5 one-hour programs. 3 featuring offenders. Not 1 profiling the cog that drives the wheel of justice; crime victims. As I reported yesterday, when I contacted the show's host, Frank Stasio he was defensive, explaining that "we are all victims of crime". Later -apparently after reading my website - he backed down, playing the roll of armchair psychologist: "I'm terribly sorry about your sister...It must be very painful for you". 

Sympathies appreciated, but it misses the point. 

I responded by requesting that if he wanted to make up for the omission he could do an hour-long program on the families of victims in Rocky Mount, NC.  5 murdered women - Joarniece Latonya Hargrove, Jackie Nikelia Thorpe,  Ernestine Battle, Melody LaShae Wiggins,  and Taraha Shenice Nicholson - have turned up in the same geographic area, 3 others are missing; and it's all being ignored because the victims are black, and alleged prostitutes / drug addicts. I don't have to remind anyone in Vancouver how badly this smells.

I am still awaiting Frank Stasio's response.

I want to be clear about something. It is not my aim to vilify NPR, the program The State of Things, or its host, Frank Stasio. I love the program. It is insightful and comprehensive. Its host is always knowledgeable of the subjects. I've even had the opportunity to spend an evening with Frank at a Durham Bulls baseball game; we enjoyed beers and polite conversation about Durham and NPR.

That's what makes all of this so disappointing. These are quality people and a quality program, but they have clearly missed the mark on this one.

The marginalization of crime victims is something we have fought against for decades. If you have an opinion please contact The State of Things tomorrow at noon EST:  1.877.962.9862 or by emailing


The State of Things - Law and Order Weak

If you are a crime victim or relative of a crime victim please call in to NPR's The State of Things to voice your displeasure about dedicating an entire week of programing to the criminal justice system and not once featuring the plight of crime victims in the system.

The State of Things has put criminal justice front and center this week on its afternoon radio program.  Topics so far have featured:

- The lack of social services to support offenders
- Racial profiling
- Legal reform
- The role "legal fiction" plays in all of this
- The war on drugs
- Rehabilitation and re-entry of offenders (today)

All are classic criminal justice 101 topics and should be discussed (minus the legal fiction thing, don't ask me why they spent a day on that).

So what's missing? The nexus at the center of the entire system, crime victims. When I asked host, Frank Stasio about this he told me that NPR was not planning on focusing on victims, but that in a sense "we are all victims" in the process.  

Yes, I get that the victim is represented in the legal process by "the state", that the offender really offends against society. But to deny victims a voice in the process is an insult, something Organizations like NOVA and The Department of Justice, Office of Victims of Crime have been fighting for decades. That NPR can't see the importance of balanced representation (they have had two 0ne-hour programs dedicated to offender issues) demonstrates that they just don't get it.

It harkens back to 2003 and the reason I decided to get a Masters in Public Policy / Criminal Justice. Canada's Federal government decides to have its first conference focusing on victims. They call it Moving Forward, Lessons Learned for Victims of Crime. Three long days of intense  discussion and debate in Ottawa. They invite everyone to the table except... crime victims (correction with a floor of approx. 300 presentations and 1,000 participants, they invite 5 victims, the right victims). When the Feds are confronted on this they explain, "We (the government, the NGOs) represent the crime victims". It is that level of condescension and paternalism that can send a crime victim into a tailspin wondering how they were once people but are now stigmatized into a corner. I will never forget when Pierre Boisvenu (if you don' know who he is then it's time to learn), the father of the then just recently murdered Julie Boisvenu crashed the event and addressed the plenary  with: "You don't speak for Julie, the family speaks for Julie." - a monumental event in the struggle for Canadian Victims rights.

The show airs today and Friday at noon, EST. As their website states:

"Let us know your thoughts during the program at 1.877.962.9862 or by Send your tweets (comments and questiosn) to our twitter."


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Justice Week?

WUNC's The State Of Things this week has called its programming "Criminal Justice Week". Five one-hour programs, and not one focusing on crime victims. I brought this to host, Frank Stasio's attention and here is his response:

"Criminal justice systems that function poorly make victims of us all. Tomorrow we'll talk about the failure of the prison system to prepare offenders for their return to society. Recidivism rates are high. They victimized us once. Returned unprepared, they'll do it again. We deserve better better protection, don't you think?"

And here is my response to Frank:

"Sorry Frank, but that doesn't answer the question. That's a dance and you know it. I am the brother of a murder victim, and the FIRST graduate in Criminal Justice from NC State's program. So you can't bullshit me. I know all the angles, and the fact is that the first victims are the innocents that didn't ask for this fate. I am disappointed that you have not profiled victims in such an important feature, and I will vocalize it."


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Objects In Rear MIrror Are Closer Than They Appear

Driving back from work I cut in front of a car to make the off ramp that would take me home.  I saw a face in in the rear mirror: weathered woman, about 50, smoking a cigarette and swearing at me. She continued cussing at me as we entered  147, and wouldn't let up until she finally passed me on the highway.  Again that weathered face... alcoholic, bitter...  this big mugging, sarcastic face. Driving a beat up Buick Skylark with all its paint baked off from the sun.

We tend to preserve the memory of our lost loved ones in some idyllic and angelic time capsule. They were perfect, and they would have surely gone on to greatness if they had not been cut down too early to realize their magnificent potential. But this weathered woman - that face - that too could have been Theresa. Maybe she was spared from the mundanity and monotony of life. Hey 19, keep your dreams forever. 


Friday, July 24, 2009

I fail to see the Honor in these "Honour KIllings"

Family charged in possible honour killings of Montreal women in Kingston


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Hell's Angels Crime Trials

A rushed and sloppy article from the Sherbrooke Record on the upcoming Hells Angels trials in Canada. My favorite feature of the infamous Lennoxville bunker was its location next to a convent:

The Hell’s Angels Bunker in Lennoxville, scene of the infamous “Clubhouse Massacre”

Before The Fall
Crown prosecutors around the province are preparing for what could be one of the country’s biggest criminal trials aimed to wipe the Hell’s Angels of the map in Quebec.

More than 120 Hell’s Angels will stand trial in the coming months following their arrests during Operation SharQc, the massive police operation last April that rendered most of the gang’s Quebec chapters inactive.

“We can already see the impact (Operation SharQc) has had on this criminal organization,” said Claude Chartrand, the chief prosecutor with Quebec’s Bureau de lutte au crime organisé. “Hopefully, we won’t see any more Hell’s in Quebec – that’s the goal.”
Only months before the local Hell’s Angels chapter was to celebrate their 25th anniversary, almost its entire membership is behind bars. Of the gang’s Sherbrooke chapter, 32 gang members and their affiliates were arrested on a number of charges, including murder, conspiracy to murder, gangsterism and drug trafficking, all crimes committed between 1992 and 2009.

Twenty “full-patch” Hell’s Angels from Sherbrooke face first-degree murder charges in connection with 22 murders, five of which were committed in this region.

All of the 32 have heard their charges read in court but remain in custody, Chartrand said, plus another Sherbrooke affiliate who was arrested and detained in Ontario.

Four of the arrested members, Claude Berger, Bruno Dumas, François Goupil and affiliate John Coates are seeking bail in Quebec Superior Court this week, in a hearing that is subject to a media ban.

Sherbrooke prosecutor Stephanie Landry is presenting evidence against the four men.
The accused are still going through proceedings that will give way to
Quebec’s mega-trial, while prosecutors must work through pre-trial motions, which will determine what evidence can be presented, the number of witnesses and the amount of time required for the hearings.

“I don’t think there’s ever been a trial like this in Canada,” Chartrand said. “But I’m optimistic that in three years we’ll have settled most of these cases.

The trials will be heard at the Montreal-area Gouin courthouse next where work is currently underway to accommodate the number of accused, he added.

That is where Sylvain Boulanger is expected to testify. The former sergeant-at-arms in the Hell’s’ Sherbrooke chapter supplied investigators with information about an alleged vote held by the gang’s Quebec membership in July 1994.

There, Hell’s Angels voted in favour of engaging in the bloody turf war, with rival gangs such as the Rock Machine and Dark Circle, that ran through most of the 1990’s and involved the deaths of more than 160 people.

Paul Cherry, a crime reporter for the Montreal Gazette, says the upcoming trial could convict a record number of Hell’s Angels.

The only thing comparable, he said, was Operation Springtime 2001, a province-wide clean-up of the Hell’s Angels’ Quebec headquarters, which went to trial for three years.

“But Operation SharQc is significant because it’s the first time ever this many Hell’s Angels have been arrested at the same time, in the world,” Cherry said. “If most are convicted, it would essentially knock them off the map in Quebec.”

The internal rule of the Hell’s says that chapters require six members to maintain their status, Cherry said. So if everyone arrested is convicted, all of the province’s chapters would be forced to fold – at least temporarily.

The Hell’s are very official in their management, he added, noting that meetings must be held monthly and minutes from them filed to the gang’s international body.

“I have to say it’s a very creative approach that the prosecution has taken,” Cherry said. “I don’t think anyone ever saw this coming.”

Not many did. The Hell’s Sherbrooke chapter in particular was considered untouchable as it lay quiet for so many years. There hadn’t been much activity since the mid 1980’s, when the Lennoxville bunker became the scene of the infamous clubhouse murders where five members of the “North” Chapter from Laval were shot to death in a dispute over the club’s code of conduct.

Four members and an affiliate of the Hell’s Sherbrooke chapter remain at large following the April 15 police raids.

Sherbrooke police say they continue to seek the five men as well as to ensure the Hell’s Angels chapter in the region remains inactive.

Earlier this summer, Hell’s Angels members from Ontario were in town visiting, said police spokesman Martin Carrier, some of whom police identified as former affiliates to the Sherbrooke chapter.

“We’re aware of it, and we’re keeping our eye on it,” Carrier said. “But for the time being, we aren’t seeing a movement of Hell’s Angels from Ontario to the Sherbrooke area.”
The Sherbrooke chapter has, in the past, had links to the Hell’s Angel’s chapters in Thunder Bay and London, Cherry said.

“What’s to stop these guys in Ontario from coming here to pick up from where their brothers left off?” he said. “A lot of these guys who went to Ontario are no slouches, they’ve created a brand.
“The infrastructure is still there, it’s the management that has been taken out.”

The departure of a network like the Hell’s has not left a noticeable gap in the local drug market, Carrier said, noting that drug trafficking will always find its way when there is a demand.
But Carrier said Sherbrooke police did note an increase in the price of street drugs immediately after Operation SharQC.

“There are still the same people on the ground selling drugs,” he said. “And as a police force, we are still working to crack those networks just as we were when the Hell’s were still operating locally.”

Carrier, who speaks on behalf of the regional police force that participated in Operation SharQc, said it is unclear just how involved local police may be in the Hell’s’ upcoming trials. Police who made arrests during the April raid have submitted reports to prosecutors in Montreal, he said, and may be called on to testify during the trials.
By Sarah Rogers


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Victoria Stafford: what we all knew

Sorry people, I have nothing amusing are poignant to say. It is what it is:

The remains found in an isolated, wooded area of southern Ontario on the weekend are those of schoolgirl Victoria Stafford, police confirmed Tuesday.

Forensic scientists in Toronto using dental records "positively identified the remains as those of Victoria Stafford," said Det.-Insp. Bill Renton, who headed the joint OPP-Oxford Community Police task force.

Victoria, also known as Tori, disappeared just after 3 p.m. on April 8, minutes after leaving her elementary school in Woodstock.

The last image of the child was captured on a security camera. It showed her being led away from the school by a woman with dark hair who was wearing a white coat.

For more than a month, police searched for Victoria. That ended in late May when police arrested two people and charged them with first-degree murder.

On Monday, OPP investigators confirmed the discovery of human remains in an area near the small farming community of Mount Forest, about 95 kilometres north of Woodstock.

They couldn't say conclusively the remains were those of Victoria, but hinted strongly that it was the likeliest outcome.

Police said an investigator working on the case acted on some information and checked an area southeast of Mount Forest on Sunday. During the search, police located the body of a child.

Terri-Lynne McClintic and Michael Rafferty are charged with kidnapping and first-degree murder. (CBC)
Forensic testing in Toronto confirmed the findings, identifying Victoria by her dental records.

During Tuesday's news conference in Woodstock, Oxford police Chief Rod Freeman said he hoped "returning Victoria to our community and to her family will bring some sense of relief to Tara McDonald [Victoria's mother] and Rodney Stafford [Victoria's father] and all the family."

Freeman said the next step is "bringing this case to court."

Two Woodstock residents, Michael Rafferty and Terri-Lynne McClintic, are charged with kidnapping and first-degree murder in Victoria's disappearance.

Their trials are expected to begin next year.


Sunday, July 19, 2009

Apollo 11 - Daring To Dream

Allow me to go off topic for a moment and say this: any attempt to suggest that the Apollo moon ladings were a fabrication via Hollywood and NASA are a display of supreme ignorance, intellectual cowardice, and overall lack of imagination.

I happen to have a background in mathematics and physics and would welcome any challenges to this notion. Simply comment and prepare for humiliation.


It always comes back to DNA

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A jury has convicted an imprisoned sex offender of murder in the 1975 strangulation death of a Girl Scout in Tennessee.

Nine-year-old Marcia Trimble disappeared while delivering Girl Scout cookies in her Nashville neighborhood, and her body was found near her home 33 days later.

A jury on Saturday convicted 62-year-old Jerome Barrett of two counts of second-degree murder. He faces 44 years in prison on each count in this case. Barrett is currently serving a life sentence for the 1975 rape and murder of a Vanderbilt University student.

The Girl Scout killing is considered Nashville's most notorious crime in decades. Barrett became a suspect in the girl's death more than a year ago as a result of DNA testing. The jury took about eight hours to deliberate.


Friday, July 17, 2009

SQ in charge of Earl Jones investigation

Bueller?... Bueller?... Bueller?

Well surprise, surprise! Look who's in charge! Thanks for showing up fellas.

JULY 17, 2009

The Sûreté du Québec has released a statement clarifying that it is responsible for the Earl Jones investigation. The SQ is collaborating with other law enforcement agencies to investigate complaints from investors alleging they were defrauded by Jones.

The SQ said it has implemented all possible measures to conduct this investigation in a timely matter.

Anyone who believes they have been defrauded should contact their local police department or call the toll free Central Criminal Information line at 1 800 659-4264.


Earl Jones

Concerning the Mr Earl Jones debacle; I find it quite ironic that the "victims" are crying out for justice. Where were these "victims" when families of missing and murdered children of Quebec pleaded for their support?

You reap what you sow,

John Allore
Chapel Hill, NC


Earl Jones - Blunt Is Always Best

Welcome to our world, Mother-Fuckers:

"He called the provincial police at Surete du Quebec, and was told his mother should contact her local police station.

He called the RCMP, who took some basic information and then told him to contact the Surete du Quebec.

He called provincial financial regulators at the AMF, who said they did not have information about his mother"


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Earl Jones: At Last! Someone asks the right question.

Angry clients fume: Why no arrest warrant?

Jones still missing; Police mum on who is leading investigation


No warrant has been issued for the arrest of Earl Jones, the disgraced West Island money manager.

Former clients of Earl Jones Consultant and Administration Corp. want to know why.

Jones is alleged to have operated a Ponzi scheme with money from friends, family and investors, fleecing them out of between $50 million and $100 million.

Yesterday, investigators from three police forces refused to answer any of The Gazette's questions about Jones:

- Why hasn't an arrest been made?

- Who is handling the investigation: the RCMP, the Sûreté du Québec or Montreal police?

- Is there even an investigation into Jones's practice?

SQ spokesperson Marc Butz would not confirm whether the provincial police force was in charge of the file.

"For now, it's not determined who's going to do the investigation,"

If anyone suspects they are a victim of fraud, Butz said, they should call their local police station.

Stéphane Crête, an SQ investigator in the economic crimes unit, said he attended last weekend's meeting of Jones's investors to answer general questions.

The RCMP's Quebec division would not confirm that there is an investigation under their jurisdiction.

Jerry Coughlan, whose mother dealt with Jones for 30 years, doesn't know what's taking the police so long.

If there is a delay, Coughlan said, he hopes it's because they're trying to build a strong case against Jones.

"I'd like to see an arrest warrant now based on what they have and then add to it as more information comes in," Coughlan said.

"If he mugged me on the street, there'd be a charge," said Charlie Washer, who says Jones duped him out of $125,000.

"It's like when a child goes missing - the first few hours are the most critical."

Jones and his wife disappeared last week, and there is speculation he might have left the country.

On Tuesday, a British Airways flight attendant told Global TV he served Jones on a Thursday evening flight to London's Heathrow airport.

The airline later said no one by the name of Earl Jones or Bertram Jones boarded the flight.

"I would obviously prefer to see an arrest warrant" in case Jones is no longer in Canada and get Interpol

involved, Coughlan said.

In Quebec, pressing charges in cases of white-collar crime is no quick feat.

Vincent Lacroix, founder and ex-CEO of Norbourg Financial Group, was convicted of Quebec securities violations more than two years after police raided his Montreal offices. He bilked more than 9,000 clients out of almost $100 million and is awaiting trial in September on more than 100 fraud and conspiracy charges stemming from an RCMP investigation.

Two years ago, Triglobal president Thémistoklis Papadopoulos made headlines by allegedly investing almost $1 billion of his clients' money in illegal offshore funds.

No charges were ever filed.


Saturday, July 04, 2009

"Serial Killer": So 2006

Teen Girl Becomes 5th Victim of Suspected South Carolina Serial Killer
Saturday, July 04, 2009

A sketch of the serial killer police in rural South Carolina believe murdered four people; the suspect still is on the loose.
Authorities say a teen girl shot in father's store is the fifth victim of suspected South Carolina serial killer.

Cherokee County Coroner Dennis Fowler says Abby Tyler, 15, died as a result to gunshot injuries. Her death comes two days after a shooting at her family's small furniture and appliance store in Gaffney, S.C. on Thursday.

The teen's father, Stephen Tyler, 45, was also shot and killed Thursday at Tyler Home Center.

Cherokee County Sheriff Bill Blanton said Stephen Tyler's shooting death and those of three others since last Saturday — a peach farmer, an elderly woman and her daughter — are connected.

"We're concerned," Blanton told reporters Friday. "We're dealing with a man that's killed four people."

The suspect is described as 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighing 200 pounds, with blue eyes. Blanton classified him as a serial killer.

Police released a sketch Friday of the serial killer on the loose who they believe murdered the people in six days in rural South Carolina.

Investigators don't know exactly who he is or whether he is familiar with the area.

Earlier reports that the killer was driving a dark blue van haven't panned out, according to Blanton.

He said it isn't clear whether the victims and the suspect knew each other.

"There's no evidence there is a hit list," Blanton said. "There's no evidence he knows the victims. There's no evidence the victims are connected (to each other)."

The murders all happened within 10 miles of each other in Cherokee, a county of 54,000 people about 50 miles south on Interstate 85 from Charlotte, N.C.

"This person is gonna be somebody that not a lot of people pay attention to or give a second look to," Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright, whose department has joined the investigation, told FOX News on Friday. "Obviously, he's either really good or really lucky."

Thursday's killing happened one day and about 7 miles from where family members found the bodies of 83-year-old Hazel Linder and her 50-year-old daughter, Gena Linder Parker, bound and shot in Linder's home.

Blanton would not say if Tyler and his daughter were also bound.

The killing spree began last Saturday about 10 miles from Tyler's shop. Peach farmer Kline Cash, 63, was found shot in his living room. Investigators said he appeared to have been robbed, but they haven't determined if anything was taken in the latest killings.

The sheriff said evidence makes it obvious that Cash's killing is linked to the deaths of the women, but he refused to give details.

He said the killer appears to have first spoken with Cash's wife about buying hay in a ruse to commit the crime. She left and then came home a few hours later to find her husband's body.

"We think she may have been his intended victim," the sheriff said. He theorized Thursday that the killer could be targeting women.

Cherokee County saw just six homicides in all of 2008, which was double the number reported in 2007.

At least 30 investigators from across the region are working on the case, and Blanton canceled all vacation and regular days off for his officers. He wants anyone living in the area to be vigilant and call in any tips, large or small. He also asked any door-to-door salesmen to stop working until the case is solved.

"We know we are dealing with a dangerous person," Blanton said. "And we know through the investigation that he is unpredictable."

Residents are on edge, according to the sheriff.

"There is fear in our community," Blanton said.


Thursday, July 02, 2009

NC Racial Justice Act Passes

Let's see, institutionalizing bias as a means of preventing bias. That doesn't seem right to me. "The burden is on the defendant to prove that race was an underlying factor": Wonder how much that will cost taxpayers.

Independent Weekly

By a 7-6 vote, the House Judiciary I Committee approved a "clean" version of the Racial Justice Act (SB 461), which would prevent the execution of defendants who can prove race was an underlying factor in the decision to seek, or impose, the death penalty at the time of their trial. Meanwhile, a rough cost estimate has been published, with prosecutors and defense attorneys disagreeing over whether the bill would cost, or save, the state money.

The bill the House J1 Committee approved today does not include controversial clauses that would ensure the resumption of the death penalty in North Carolina, which were added on the Senate floor but later removed in the House Ways and Means Committee. It also contained several technical amendments to the version Ways and Means had passed. The bill now heads to the House Appropriations Committee, before coming up for a vote on the House floor. If House members succeed in keeping the bill free of the execution amendments, a compromise will likely need to be struck in conference committee.

After a discussion by committee members, Committee Chair Deborah Ross asked if anyone in the audience wished to speak against the bill. Nobody raised his hand.

Rep. John Blust (R-Guilford) offered an explanation: "People might not like the idea of coming forward and being against something that's titled 'the Racial Justice Act.'" He added:

"If we really want to talk about racial justice we need to think about the people out there right now, in the various communities in this state, some of whom live in very rough communities and face a survival question day-to-day, at the hands of people who often prey on them. And it's those African-American citizens, out in the community, that I have more concern about their racial justice, to be able to live their lives. That's going to be impacted with the DA's having to look over their shoulders in prosecuting capital cases from now on."
The Rev. William Barber II, president of the NAACP state chapter, walked to the podium to debunk the concern: "African-Americans want to see this passed."

In an interview after the vote, he cited better schools, jobs and economic development—not the death penalty—as "the deterrents that we need in regards to the issues [Blust] was talking about."

"The African-American community is somewhat conservative, when it comes to crime," he said. "We believe, if you do the crime, you ought to do the time. What we fight for is there not being one system of sentencing for black folk, and then another system for others."

He added: "No prosecutor that's really interested in justice is worried about anyone reviewing what they have done."

Simultaneously, a fiscal note (PDF, 96 KB) has been added to the Racial Justice Act's page, including broad estimates on the cost of implementing the bill. N.C. Indigent Defense Services estimated "there will likely be a net savings associated with implementing the bill," due to the removal of trial and post-conviction appeal costs when defendants successfully make a Racial Justice Act claim, meaning they would instead be sentenced to life without parole, or, if their trial has not yet begun, tried for life without parole.

The N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) estimated that the extra court fees for Racial Justice claims in the first year to be between $2.4 million and $6.2 million, consisting mostly of defendants already on death row, who have one year to file a claim. However, the agency also noted that "to the extent a pretrial hearing resulted in a ruling that causes a case to proceed non-capitally, where it might otherwise have proceeded capitally, the subsequent costs for that case would be considerably less." AOC did not provide estimates of these long-term savings.

The N.C. Department of Justice estimated the additional costs of current death-row inmates making Racial Justice Act appeals to be $4 million, and did not factor in any potential savings from cases that would instead proceed non-capitally. (According to an Indy analysis of figures provided by the IDS, the state would have saved an estimated $36 million in defense costs alone, between the years 2001 and 2008, if it had sought life without parole, instead of the death penalty, in 733 capital cases.)

Both the AOC and Department of Justice arrived at their cost estimates by relying on a single capital murder trial in Durham, in which expert fees to investigate a claim of racial bias cost at least $25,000. (The defendant's motion wasn't heard; the charges have been reduced to noncapital murder, due to other circumstances.)

"Under the RJA, each case will have different data that defense and prosecution experts will have to consider and evaluate," the Department of Justice figures. "Thus, it is assumed that similar expense will be required for each of the 163 inmates currently on death row."

However, District Attorney Tracey Cline, the opposing attorney in the murder trial, told the Indy those costs should not factor into the Legislature's decision to approve or disapprove the Racial Justice Act. "Statistics in Durham County were applied in the wrong way. But in other, rural areas, it may be exactly what's needed," Cline said. "I don't want people to think that because of what happens in Durham, we should not support the Racial Justice Act, because I think that would be a travesty."

One way to keep such costs down is to launch a "coordinated statewide statistical study," which is what the IDS suggests in the fiscal note. Such a study, for which IDS suggests not-for-profit foundation funding, could produce "a baseline of data that may be disaggregated for purposes of analyzing racial discrimination claims by county, district and division."

In other words, each case would not have to re-invent the wheel, as the Department of Justice suggests.

Other than the one-year window for the 163 inmates presently on death row in North Carolina, the Racial Justice Act would allow defendants facing the death penalty to raise the claim either in pretrial hearings or after their conviction. (The one-year deadline would then expire, and the bill would then no longer apply to death-row inmates.)

Committee Counsel Hal Pell acknowledged there is "some overlap" with constitutional protections, but added that the bill "provides some specific guidance, and allows statistical evidence to be used, and provides a procedure for this claim."

The burden is on the defendant to prove that race was an underlying factor; meanwhile, the bill would also allow the prosecution to rebut a Racial Justice Act claim with statistical evidence, or by pointing to programs that seek to eliminate the consideration of race in sentencing decisions.