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The Voice of the Black Community

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Racial bias changes death sentences
3 N.C. inmates to spend life behind bars
 
Published Friday, December 14, 2012 8:17 am
by Stephanie Carroll Carson, N.C. News Service

FAYETTEVILLE – Three North Carolina death row inmates on Thursday were re-sentenced to life in prison without parole, after a judge found there was evidence that racial discrimination in jury selection played a role in their sentences.


Tilmon Golphin, Christina Walters and Quintel Augustine will spend the rest of their lives in prison, thanks to the landmark Racial Justice Act, passed in the state in 2009. Attorney Ken Rose for the Center for Death Penalty Litigation says the evidence was overwhelming.


“There was statistical evidence showing the pattern of race discrimination in prosecutors' uses of strikes,” he said. “There was evidence that showed that the prosecutors intended to strike African-American jurors.”


The Cumberland County judge heard four weeks of testimony and read through thousands of documents to reach his decision. He cited evidence that showed potential black jurors were excluded for reasons their white counterparts were not.


The ruling was the first under the state's Racial Justice Act since lawmakers amended the law to make it more difficult for death row inmates to prove race was a factor in their case. Rose says with numerous statistics showing racial bias in jury selection, the state should consider automatically converting the sentences, rather than going through the expense of lengthy trials.


“If we have race discrimination in almost all of these cases, we have a uniform remedy, and that is that those persons are taken off of death row now and given life sentences,” he said.


No one has been executed in six years in the state, and this year, for the first time in 35 years, North Carolina juries did not sentence anyone to death. This was the second ruling under the Racial Justice Act. Earlier this year, the same judge converted the death sentence of Marcus Robinson to life in prison without parole.

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