NC SUPREME COURT REINSTATES RACIAL JUSTICE ACT: The NC Supreme Court ruled in favor of two death row inmates Friday, allowing them to continue arguing that their cases were so tainted by race discrimination their sentences should be reduced to life in prison. The Center for Death Penalty Litigation, which has fought the legislature’s decision to close off that legal path, called the court’s move a “landmark” decision that also allows other death-row inmates to file claims. North Carolina’s Racial Justice Act passed in 2009 while Democrats controlled the legislature, allowing death row defendants to seek to reduce their sentences to life in prison if they could show racial bias played a role in their cases. The court’s ruling dropped Friday in the midst of nationwide protests focused on systemic racism in the American justice system.
GOVERNOR COOPER VETOES BILL ALLOWING BARS TO REOPEN: Gov. Roy Cooper has vetoed a bill that would have allowed bars to reopen in outdoor areas and limited the power of the governor or municipal authorities to close them again in case of a new spike in cases. Cooper made the announcement in a press release Friday afternoon. "State and local government leaders must be able to act quickly during the COVID-19 emergency to prevent a surge in cases that could overwhelm hospitals and harm the public," said Cooper in a statement. "House Bill 536 would limit the ability of leaders to respond quickly to COVID-19 and hamper the health and safety of every North Carolinian." State lawmakers sent the measure to the governor's desk last Thursday. It had bipartisan support in the Senate, but little Democratic support in the House, setting up a likely veto showdown – the first of the 2020 legislative session.
WAKE ACTIVIST CONRAD JAMES ARRESTED SHORTLY AFTER SPEAKING WITH CITY COUNCIL: A Wake County activist who gave a list of demands to Raleigh Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown earlier this week is facing charges related to not returning a rental vehicle. Conrad James was arrested early Friday by members of the Wake County Sheriff's Office, with knowledge of prior pending warrants by the Fuquay-Varina Police Department. His arrest came hours after he spoke at Thursday's virtual Raleigh City Council meeting. He was one of a number of people who were given a minute to make public comments to the council members. According to a public record release from the Fuquay-Varina Police Department, James, 27, of Willow Spring, has been charged with felony failure to return a motor vehicle. His court date is June 25. The branch manager of the Enterprise in Fuquay-Varina, told police a rental vehicle, a 2020 gray Nissan Versa, was not returned by April 21 by James. The vehicle was rented on April 14.
TRUMP GOES OFF-SCRIPT, SAYS IT WAS A "GREAT DAY" FOR GEORGE FLOYD: In lengthy White House remarks amid sweeping social unrest, a rising virus death toll and Depression-level unemployment, the Republican president suggested that even George Floyd, the black man who died last week when a white police officer knelt for minutes on his neck, would be pleased with the latest economic news. “Hopefully George is looking down right now and saying this is a great thing that’s happening for our country,” Trump said. “This is a great day for him. It’s a great day for everybody.” Putting words in the dead man’s mouth drew quick criticism, including from likely presidential foe Joe Biden, who said it was “despicable.” A few blocks away, city workers painted a huge “Black Lives Matter” sign on 16th Street leading to the White House. On the economy, Trump said an economic rebound was the answer to racial inequality, calling it “the greatest thing that can happen for race relations.” Trump was quick to seize the positive jobs report at a time when his political standing is at one of the weakest points of his presidency less than five months before the general election. Just 2 in 10 voters believe the country is headed in the right direction, a Monmouth University poll found earlier in the week.
FLORIDA IS EMERGING AS LIKELY REPLACEMENT VENUE FOR RNC: As the discussions between aides to Mr. Cooper, who is running for re-election this year, and Republicans have eroded, party officials are looking at a host of alternative sites. Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida has been making an aggressive pitch, talking specifically about the city of Orlando, though Jacksonville is currently a likelier location, according to a senior Republican official. While several other states are still being considered, Florida is the party’s top choice. The news of the almost certain change in venue was delivered in calls to delegates last weekend, after Mr. Trump and Mr. Cooper reached a stalemate about what kind of social distancing regulations and safety protocols should be put in place inside the Spectrum Center to protect attendees from Covid-19. Mr. Cooper wanted to require social distancing and face masks, both of which are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Mr. Trump, bristling that the terms of his own event were being dictated to him, wanted a full stadium with a pre-coronavirus look and feel, or nothing at all. On a phone call with Mr. Cooper on May 29, Mr. Trump said he would not deliver a speech in front of a half-empty arena and that he wanted a quick answer on whether the state would accommodate him, according to two people familiar with the call. Mr. Trump asked Mr. Cooper what he should do; the governor said they should work to find a way to scale the convention back, one of the people said.