North Carolina’s Racial Justice Act Reduced Marcus Robinson’s Sentence From Death Row to Life
It’s always nice to hear stories like this. When race plays a major role in how someone’s life was unfairly judged and condemned, its justice systems like this that make us believe in them again.
Report from Huffington Post:
A condemned killer’s trial was so tainted by the racially influenced decisions of prosecutors that he should be removed from death row and serve a life sentence, a judge ruled Friday in a precedent-setting North Carolina decision.
Superior Court Judge Greg Weeks’ decision in the case of Marcus Robinson comes in the first test of a 2009 state law that allows death row prisoners and capital murder defendants to challenge their sentences or prosecutors’ decisions with statistics and other evidence beyond documents or witness testimony.
Only Kentucky has a law like North Carolina’s Racial Justice Act, which says the prisoner’s sentence is reduced to life in prison without parole if the claim is successful.
“The Racial Justice Act represents a landmark reform in capital sentencing in our state,” Weeks said in Fayetteville on Friday. “There are those who disagree with this, but it is the law.”
Race played a “persistent, pervasive and distorting role” in jury selection and couldn’t be explained other than that “prosecutors have intentionally discriminated” against Robinson and other capital defendants statewide, Weeks said. Prosecutors eliminated black jurors more than twice as often as white jurors, according to a study by two Michigan State University law professors Weeks said he found highly reliable.
Robinson’s case is the first of more than 150 pending cases to get an evidentiary hearing before a judge. Prosecutors said they planned to challenge Weeks’ decision, and District Attorney Billy West declined further comment.
Weeks ruled race was a factor in prosecution decisions to reject potential black jurors before the murder trial of Robinson, a black man convicted of killing a white teenager in 1991. The jury that convicted Robinson had nine whites, two blacks and one American Indian.
Read full report and the entire case here.