RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Just as the primary elections in North Carolina have wrapped up, national Republicans already are preparing for the state’s high-profile U.S. Senate race in the general election with an attack ad against the Democratic nominee.
The ad from the National Republican Senatorial Committee that began airing on television late last week goes after Cheri Beasley for her record on two opinions she wrote as the chief justice of the state Supreme Court.
It prompted the sheriffs in six counties across the state to respond with a joint statement.
CLAIM 1: The ad’s narrator says of the “murderer who shot a boy in the face, Beasley vacated his death sentence.”
Robinson is in prison for the murder and robbery of a 17-year-old in 1991.
The court’s decision about his sentence was less about his guilt or innocence and more about the application of law — specifically, the state’s Racial Justice Act.
The 2009 act allowed people on death row to ask the courts to determine whether racial bias in the criminal justice system influenced the trials and the juries that gave them death sentences.
In 2012, Robinson became the first person to use the act to have his sentence commuted from death to life in prison without parole. Three others did the same.
In response, lawmakers tightened the act to make it harder for inmates to win — and repealed it a year later.
Then, in 2015, Robinson and the others were sent back to death row, after the Supreme Court determined that Cumberland County Superior Court Judge Greg Weeks erred by not giving prosecutors enough time to respond to questions about statistics on race in the state’s courts.
Then, Superior Court Judge W. Edwin Spainhour said Robinson and the others could no longer use the Racial Justice Act because it had been repealed.
The Supreme Court overturned that by a 4-3 ruling in 2020.
Beasley, writing for the majority, said reimposing his death sentence violated Robinson’s right against double jeopardy and that precedent has held that once a death penalty is vacated, it cannot be restored.
CLAIM 2: The narrator says of “the man convicted of sexually assaulting a 7-year-old girl, she threw out the indictment.”
THE FACTS: Once again, the Supreme Court dismissed it by a 4-2 vote. Beasley wrote the majority opinion.
It refers to the ruling in State v. White, in which “Hannah,” a 7-year-old Graham County girl, was sexually molested while she and her mother lived in a trailer owned by Michael Lee White, who provided a written confession after the girl’s aunt notified authorities of the abuse. A judge sentenced him in 2015 to 300 to 369 months in prison.
The issue the Supreme Court had to decide was whether there was a problem with the indictment charging White.
Was it facially defective because it referred to the girl as “Victim 1” instead of the short form of her name — such as her initials or first name?
The court found that state law is “clear and unambiguous” — the child had to be identified in some way beyond the catch-all “Victim 1,” and that it would have been enough to simply use her initials.
CBS 17 asked the Beasley campaign for its reaction to the ad, and campaign spokeswoman Dory MacMillan provided a joint statement from the sheriffs six counties across the state — including Durham, Franklin and Edgecombe counties.
They called the attacks on Beasley “disgraceful and horrible.”
“Cheri took an oath to uphold our Constitution and follow the rule of law, and she partnered with us to protect communities and hold violent offenders accountable,” the sheriffs said. “Having spent decades keeping North Carolina communities safe, we know that North Carolinians can trust Cheri to protect our communities and stand up for victims, just like she always has.”
MacMillan also pointed out a story from NewsOne, a news website focused primarily on African-American issues, that said Beasley’s rulings were upheld more than 98 percent of the time and that in five cases brought up for review by the U.S. Supreme Court, the nation’s highest court agreed with Beasley on all.