Racism Claims Get Death-Row Inmate a Reprieve

The North Carolina prisoner now has a life sentence, thanks to the state's Racial Justice Act.

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Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP

According to the Fayetteville Observer, North Carolina has converted its first death row case under the Racial Justice Act. Prisoner Marcus Reymond Robinson's 1994 death sentence is now life in prison without parole. Cumberland County Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Greg Weeks ruled that prosecutors assigned to Robinson's case used race in selecting the jury. Judge Weeks' decision will no doubt bring many more death-row cases to the forefront for reconsideration in North Carolina.

The Racial Justice Act of 2009 gave death row inmates and capital murder defendants a chance to bring claims if they believed they were unable to get a fair trial because of racism. Under the law, the inmates could use statistics to prove bias in the court system.

If a judge determines racism was a factor, a death sentence is converted to life without parole.

Robinson, a black man who killed a 17-year-old white teenager in 1991, became the first test of the law.

His Cumberland County jury had one American Indian, two black and nine white members.

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