Henry Louis Wallace, Charlotte's most prolific serial killer, confessed, in detail, to nine murders.
The killings gripped the African-American community in the 1990s, as all nine women, like Wallace, were black.
There's no gray area here, no confusion over Wallace's guilt, no case of mistaken identity. Wallace also claims to have committed several other murders while he was stationed around the globe during his time in the Navy. He was convicted of first-degree murder on all nine counts and sentenced to death. He currently sits on North Carolina's death row.
All of which is terribly unfair to Wallace. Had he committed his crimes a month from now, when the Racial Justice Act will likely be law, he could have gotten out of that nasty death penalty part. Thanks to this new, utterly outrageous law, the death penalty in North Carolina could now be doled out according to race.
All Wallace would have to do is convince a judge, using statistics, that the death penalty is handed out more frequently to people of his race in Mecklenburg County, in the state or in his prosecutorial district. Or he could argue that there was a pattern of racial discrimination in cases heard in his county or court district. He wouldn't have to prove there was actually any discrimination in his own case, just that there was discrimination in someone else's. He could even get a series of jurors from other death penalty cases to claim they were racist, even if jurors in his own case weren't willing to make that claim, and get off death row.
The whole thing is dangerously open to interpretation. Here's why: If Wallace committed his crimes today, he could argue that blacks make up 22 percent of North Carolina's population, but 53 percent of inmates on the state's death row, therefore he is being discriminated against. A liberal judge might buy that and commute his death sentence to life in prison. A less liberal judge might buy the prosecutor's rebuttal that blacks make up 62 percent of all convicted murderers in the state's prison system, as the Winston-Salem Journal recently reported.
"Those numbers could imply that blacks are underrepresented on death row," a Journal article said. White killers could argue that while they are underrepresented on death row by population, once convicted of murder, they are more likely than black killers to get the death penalty. In 2005, for instance, 38 percent of convicted killers in the state were white, while 39 percent of those on death row were white.
Depending on the statistics the year they were convicted, killers of one race could get out of the death penalty while those of another race couldn't. It all depends on the actions of juries. If they send more white killers to death row than they do black ones, it could be a bumper year for white homicidal maniacs. But again, it all depends on which judge you get.
The beauty of this bill, from an ax murderer's perspective, is that there are no limits on which statistics you can use. So if you don't like the 2009 FBI statistics, and your case stretches over a few years, as most death penalty cases do, you could use the 2010 statistics. Reporting to the FBI is voluntary, though most law enforcement agencies increasingly do it. In 2004, 380 North Carolina law enforcement agencies reported homicides to the FBI. In 2005, 448 did. That means the stats fluctuate annually, so there's plenty of statistical "diversity" to choose from.
And if all of that fails, you could always use the statistical racial makeup of the jury. The law is so nuts, your own lawyer could later testify that he might have discriminated against you in jury selection, and that could work, too. Or you could simply argue that your jury's racial makeup didn't mirror the state's or your county's or, well, as you can see, the possibilities are endless.
The most offensive part of this bill, from a victim's perspective, is the line stating that statistical proof that those of your race have been discriminated against in sentencing will trump every other aggravating factor in determining whether your death sentence is overturned.
So you robbed your victim before you tortured her for three days, stabbed her 83 times, recorded the whole thing and uploaded it to YouTube along with your signed confession? No biggie.
Race, from now on, is the only thing that will matter.