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The Voice of the Black Community

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Support builds for RJA case
N.C. Supreme Court to hear appeal
 
Published Wednesday, August 14, 2013 7:44 am
by Stephanie Carson, N.C. News Service

RALEIGH – People from across the nation are stepping up to support North Carolina's first death row inmate to have his sentence converted to life in prison without parole under the state's Racial Justice Act.

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Marcus Robinson

Marcus Robinson was successful in proving race was a factor in his case last year, but prosecutors appealed the decision. Although the State Assembly repealed the RJA this year, Robinson's attorney, Jay Ferguson of Charlotte, said inmates with current cases should be able to pursue them.

“All the death row inmates who have filed under the Racial Justice Act have a right to litigate those claims,” Ferguson said. “The racial discrimination isn't erased because the law was repealed.”

Late last week, families of murder victims and African-American citizens were among those who filed legal briefs in support of Robinson. Nearly 150 death row inmates in North Carolina have pending claims under the RJA.

Following passage of the RJA, several studies found that race was a factor in sentencing death row inmates and in jury selection in North Carolina. In addition to the effect on inmates, Ferguson said, state lawmakers' repeal of the RJA sends a message to citizens.

“We would never say to an African-American that they can't vote,” he said, “but yet, we are saying to African-Americans through the process of jury selection that you're not going to serve and to be a decision maker in this case.”

The N.C. Supreme Court will review Robinson’s case this fall. The legislation was signed into law in 2009. Those who supported the repeal have cited the cost of appeals on the justice system and argued that people who were convicted received fair trials.

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