Widow of slain officer asks lawmakers to narrow Racial Justice Act

Jennifer Shelton urged state legislators to revisit the Racial Justice Act.

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by GLENN COUNTS / NewsChannel 36
E-mail Glenn: GCounts@WCNC.com

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WCNC.com

Posted on May 13, 2010 at 3:55 PM

Updated Thursday, May 13 at 6:21 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Jennifer Shelton is not a politician but for the last few days she has been lobbying lawmakers in Raleigh.

"I believe that a person is tried for their crime and not for the color of their skin," said Shelton.

Her husband, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officer Jeff Shelton, and his partner Sean Clark were gunned down three years ago as they answered a domestic disturbance call in east Charlotte at the Timber Ridge Apartments.

Demeatrius Montgomery was scheduled to go on trial for the murders in July, but a judge postponed it until October, which stunned the families.

"None of us saw that coming. We were all taken aback by that," Jennifer Shelton said.

The trial was delayed because of the Racial Justice Act. It requires experts to examine data on a county-by-county basis to determine if blacks are more likely to get the death penalty than whites for committing the same types of crimes.

Proponents counter that the unintended consequences should not be a surprise to anyone because it's written in the bill that the Racial Justice Act can be used prior to a trial.

"From the moment I saw it, I saw it as a fatally flawed bill that was as likely to create as many injustices as it was supposed to correct," said Republican House Whip Thom Tillis.

He believes changes need to be made and he's glad Shelton is helping him make that case.

"In a case such as ours it gives a person charged with murder a chance to avoid a death sentence based on statistics from other cases," Shelton said. "I believe people should pay for their crimes. I believe victims deserve justice."

Shelton says the lawmakers she talked to seemed receptive to her plea. She is hoping that will be enough.

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