Pastors from North Carolina are challenging the death penalty, not only for its ethics in relation to their religious beliefs but for the fact they are often excluded from the juries. In their opinion at The Charlotte Observer, the issue is just as vital as the current attack on voting rights.
Rev. William Barber of Greenleaf Christian Church (Greensboro), Dumas Harshaw Jr. of First Baptist Church (Raleigh) and preacher/activist Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove (Durham) say that Black representation in the jury box is being threatened in North Carolina. Much like any other state, people can be excluded from serving on juries if they show any bias toward the punishment at hand or the police. As expected, those prospective jurors were found to be the majority of Black people, they wrote.
However, the three pastors cited the work of J.W. Hood, renowned pastor and abolitionist, and how the lack of representation on the jury jeopardizes our democracy.
More from The Charlotte Observer:
A century and a half after Hood spoke of the importance of jury service, a Wake County death penalty case is exposing the reality that Black people’s right to be represented in the jury box is still under threat in North Carolina.
As Rev. Hood knew well, this perspective is the result of the African-American experience in the United States, which is shaped by the racist history of policing and the death penalty. Rules that do not recognize this fact make it impossible for us to work together toward a multiracial democracy.
According to the ACLU, Black people of faith tend to be disproportionately excluded from death penalty juries. Obviously, faith leaders would have trouble being deemed “death qualified” because they don’t believe in the death penalty. Yet, prosecutors tend to strike out Black people in general from death qualification, believers or not.
Experts found in Florida and North Carolina, where two Black men are facing the death penalty, that Black jurors are twice as likely to be removed from the jury than white ones, per the ACLU. This skews the jury and ends up putting a Black man in the hands of an all-white jury who probably decided ahead of time the defendant was guilty.
Black people may never come to agree with the death penalty knowing what we know about its racist history and the way it has taken innocent lives from our community. But it only emphasizes how important it is that every voice is heard in that deliberation room.