Constitutional Law

Applying New Law, NC Judge Overturns Death Sentence Due to Racial Bias

In a landmark North Carolina ruling that is the first to apply the state Racial Justice Act to the case of a death row inmate, a Cumberland County judge has determined that racial bias infected the trial and sentencing of Marcus Reymond Robinson.

His death sentence is now automatically converted to life without parole, the Charlotte Observer reports.

It isn’t clear whether the state intends to appeal the Friday decision by Superior Court Judge Greg Weeks. The new law, which was enacted in 2009, expands the range of evidence that defendants can use to challenge their death sentences, the Associated Press reports.

Researchers affiliated with Michigan State University’s law school helped gather the statistical evidence to support Robinson’s claim that black jurors were systematically excluded.

Robinson, who is now 38, was convicted in August 1994 of the 1991 kidnapping and murder of Erik Tornblom, 17. They stole Tornblom’s car and $27. Robinson and the co-defendant are black; Tornblom was white.

Robinson’s accomplice is already serving a life sentence.

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