A New Addition to the School of Government’s Indigent Defense Manual Series

Emily Coward and I are glad to share a new resource with you: a reference manual entitled Raising Issues of Race in North Carolina Criminal Cases. If you are a person who likes to have a hard copy on the shelf, you can buy it here. Like our other manuals, it is available for free online at http://defendermanuals.sog.unc.edu. (The electronic platform has been retooled, and I think you will find that it has a nice look and is user-friendly.)

We created this manual to assist North Carolina court actors in recognizing and addressing issues of race that may arise in criminal cases. By gathering, organizing, and analyzing the law on the intersection of race and the criminal justice system, the manual aims to help defenders in particular to identify and raise meritorious claims of racial bias in non-capital cases. To our knowledge, this is the first such reference manual of its kind. Hopefully, court actors in other states will find that North Carolina has provided a model they can use to create a similar resource.

At the outset, the manual describes key concepts such as implicit bias and racial disparities. Subsequent chapters review key stages of a criminal proceeding and discuss how issues of race may arise at a particular stage and responses court actors may take. Topics include stops, searches, and arrests; eyewitness identification procedures; pretrial release; selective prosecution; the composition of grand and trial juries; references to race at trial; and sentencing.  Here is a brief summary of what the manual addresses:

  • the ways in which considerations of race may improperly enter into the conduct of a criminal case, referencing recent studies from North Carolina and other jurisdictions;
  • the evidentiary showing an attorney must make in support of a legal claim and the available sources of data about matters of race;
  • practice strategies and tools, such as sample motions, from experienced North Carolina practitioners;
  • strategies for all North Carolina court actors, including judges and prosecutors, aimed at safeguarding the integrity of the court system;
  • examples of collaborative efforts by court actors, including studies and policy reforms, that have been undertaken  to enhance confidence and fairness in the criminal justice system; and
  • first-person accounts from North Carolina court actors about their experiences encountering and addressing issues of race in criminal cases.

Creation of the manual was made possible by a grant from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation. If you are interested in learning more about our efforts in creating this resource, see this article from the June issue of Trial Briefs. Please contact me with any feedback at agrine@sog.unc.edu.

In closing, I will share responses from North Carolina court actors who were generous enough to review the manual.

“…A timely new resource for lawyers and judges involved in the criminal justice system. If I had the ability, I would require all participants in the system to be familiar with the contents of this extraordinary manual.”

—James E. Coleman Jr., John S. Bradway Professor of the Practice of Law, Duke University School of Law; and Chair, North Carolina Commission on Racial and Ethnic Disparities in the Criminal Justice System

“The response of court actors to issues of racial bias must be clear and decisive. This manual is a groundbreaking resource that will aid court actors at every stage of the criminal justice system in safeguarding the rights of criminal defendants and the integrity of the court system.”

—Patricia Timmons-Goodson, Associate Justice, Supreme Court of North Carolina (retired)

“Maintaining public trust, from the police encounter through sentencing, requires that race play no role in how people are treated throughout the process. This manual provides an important tool for ensuring that criminal trials are free from improper influences of race.”

—Benjamin David, District Attorney, North Carolina Fifth Judicial District (New Hanover and Pender Counties)

“Raising Issues of Race in North Carolina Criminal Cases is an important addition to the library of every trial lawyer.  This significant book gives us the tools to help all those we represent. Cheers to the Indigent Defense Education group at the School of Government for this effort to help us take steps toward enlightenment and understanding—and, thus, to be better lawyers.”

—Jim Fuller, Attorney, McIntosh Law Firm, Davidson, North Carolina; Former Judge, North Carolina Court of Appeals; and Former President, North Carolina Advocates for Justice


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