CDPL is proud to announce that we have been awarded this year’s Equity Award from the National Consortium on Racial and Ethnic Fairness in the Courts. The award honors individuals and organizations that work to eliminate bias and promote equal access to the courts. It was awarded to CDPL in recognition of decades of work to expose and remedy racism in the North Carolina death penalty, as well as the court system as a whole.
CDPL has undertaken two major areas of litigation focused on rooting out racism. First, we worked alongside partners to pass the 2009 Racial Justice Act, which allowed people on death row to unearth sweeping evidence that Black citizens were systematically denied the right to serve on capital juries. It also brought to light evidence that Black defendants were more likely to face the death penalty when the victim was white. Four people have been resentenced under the law and litigation continues. Also, since 2015, CDPL has expanded its work on racism in jury selection to include non-capital cases. We worked with many partner organizations to expose the North Carolina courts’ abysmal record of enforcing Batson v. Kentucky, the law preventing jury strikes based on race. Those efforts culminated this year when, for the first time in its history, the N.C. Supreme Court overturned a case because of racism in jury selection.
All these efforts have been accompanied by a comprehensive public education campaign intended to educate the public about the insidious role in the capital punishment system. In 2020, we released Racist Roots, an ambitious project that traces the racist origins of capital punishment from the past to the present. We are now working on a soon-to-be released film version of the project:
We are grateful for this recognition of our work and vow to continue our work to end the racist death penalty.
Read Henderson Hill’s letter nominating CDPL for the award.