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S. 1249 (102nd): Racial Justice Act of 1991

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The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress.

6/6/1991--Introduced. Racial Justice Act of 1991 - Amends the Federal judicial code to make it unlawful to impose or execute sentences of death under color of State or Federal law in a racially discriminatory pattern. Prohibits a person from being put to death in the execution of a sentence imposed pursuant to any law if that person's death sentence furthers a racially discriminatory pattern. Provides that ordinary methods of statistical proof shall suffice to establish a racially discriminatory pattern. States that it shall not be necessary to show discriminatory motive, intent, or purpose on the part of any individual or institution. Establishes the requirements for a prima facie showing that a racially discriminatory pattern exists. States that a State or Federal entity may rebut a prima facie showing by establishing by clear and convincing evidence that identifiable nonracial factors explain the racial disparities constituting the pattern. Requires any State or Federal entity that provides for the imposition of the death penalty to collect and maintain pertinent data on the charging, disposition, and sentencing patterns for all cases of death-eligible crimes. Provides for the appointment of counsel for all indigent clients (and the furnishing of investigative and other services) for habeas corpus actions arising under this Act. Provides that no State court determination on the merits of a factual issue pertinent to a claim under this Act shall be presumed to be correct unless: (1) the State has collected and maintained the necessary death penalty data; and (2) the determination was made in a court proceeding where the defendant was afforded his rights required under this Act. States that nothing contained in this Act shall be construed to affect the lawfulness of any sentence of death that does not violate this Act. States that the failure to raise such a claim before the enactment of this Act shall not bar future claims.