NORTH CAROLINA (USA): JUDGE OVERTURNS DEATH SENTENCE UNDER RACIAL JUSTICE ACT
April 20, 2012: In North Carolina, Cumberland County Superior Court Judge Gregory Weeks ordered Marcus Robinsonâ€™s death sentence to be reduced to life in prison without parole.
Earlier this year, lawyers for Robinson, 35, black, suggested that race played an improper role in jury selection on capital cases around the time of his trial.
They presented findings of a study conducted by law professors at Michigan State University that concluded that qualified black jurors were struck from juries at more than twice the rate of qualified white jurors in the stateâ€™s 173 capital cases between 1990-2010.
Reading a summary of his ruling from the bench, Judge Weeks said that â€śrace was a materially, practically and statistically significant factor in the decision to exercise peremptory challenges during jury selection by prosecutorsâ€ť at the time of Robinsonâ€™s trial.
Judge Weeks also said that the disparity was strong enough â€śas to support an inference of intentional discrimination.â€ť Judge Weeksâ€™s decision, the first under the stateâ€™s 2009 Racial Justice Act, is expected to set a precedent for other North Carolina inmates who have also challenged their death sentences on similar grounds.
North Carolinaâ€™s Racial Justice Act allows capital defendants to present evidence of racial bias, including statistics, in court. (Sources: New York Times, April 20, 2012)