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Monday, January 30, 2012

Marcus Robinson (BLACK NC Death Row Inmate) Revised Racial Justice Act Guinea Pig

NC judge weighs death row inmate Marcus Robinson's racial claims

The first Appeal under North Carolina's Racial Justice Act, which allows death row prisoners a chance to argue that race was a significant factor in their case, went before a judge in Fayetteville Monday.

Marcus Robinson was sentenced to death in Cumberland County for the 1991 murder of Erik Tornblom, but his attorneys say race was a factor in jury selection.

Superior Court Judge Greg Weeks has set up to two weeks aside to hear Robinson's case.

Prosecutors filed a motion Monday to delay the hearing so they could have more time to prepare, but Weeks denied the motion, saying the case will move forward.

Defense attorneys then filed a motion to ban any gruesome crime scene photos from being shown in court.

Death penalty opponents say the prosecutors who won Robinson's conviction in 1994 dismissed qualified black jurors more than three times the rate of white jurors.

Almost all of the 157 inmates on North Carolina's death row have filed appeals under the two-year-old law. Winning an appeal under the law commutes a death sentence to one of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

It was unclear in the fall if Weeks would be allowed to preside over the case after prosecutors attempted to call him as a witness. They said it would help refute the statistics and evidence showing racial bias during jury selection.

Robinson's lawyers believe it was a power play prosecutors used to try and remove Weeks, who is black, from the case.

In November, Superior Court Judge Quentin Sumner ruled that prosecutors failed to show that Weeks was a necessary witness for their case, quashing a subpoena to have him testify.

Gov. Bev Perdue vetoed a bill in December that would have essentially repealed the Racial Justice Act, saying it is essential the legal process isn't tarnished by prejudice.

Perdue signed the Racial Justice Act into law shortly after taking office in 2009. North Carolina and Kentucky are the only states in the country with these types of laws.

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Sources: ABC News, McClatchy Newspapers, Newsobserver, WRAL, Google Maps

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