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Ruling allows black judge to hear Racial Justice Act case

Posted November 10, 2011

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— A black Superior Court judge will be allowed to hear the first appeal under the state's Racial Justice Act after another judge on Thursday ended prosecutors' attempts to call him as a witness in the case.

Superior Court Judge Greg Weeks was assigned to hear Marcus Robinson's appeal because he is the senior resident judge in Cumberland County.

Prosecutors wanted to use his position against him, saying they might call Weeks to testify because he has presided over several death penalty trials during his 23 years on the bench. As a witness, he wouldn't be allowed to handle the case.

"We do not think that he's not an appropriate judge to be hearing cases," Cumberland County Assistant District Attorney Calvin Colyer said. "Just not this one because he is more important to us ... as a witness than he is as our judge."

Legal experts and Robinson's attorney questioned that move, saying they thought Weeks' race played a role in prosecutors' efforts to stop him from hearing the case.

"We never expected we'd be standing before a court ... trying to prevent the state from disqualifying an African-American judge," said James Ferguson, an attorney for the Durham-based Center for Death Penalty Litigation, which is handling Robinson's appeal.

Weeks didn't attend Thursday's court hearing, but his attorney, Fred Webb, called the subpoena "frivolous."

Ferguson said the move was "unprecedented" and called for it to "be denied on the spot."

"It should be denied unequivocally so that we can proceed with the merits" of Robinson's appeal, he said.

Superior Court Judge Quentin Sumner ruled that prosecutors failed to show that Weeks is a necessary witness for their case, and he quashed the subpoena.

Marcus Robinson in court Inmate gets black judge to hear racial bias claim

After the hearing, all of the attorneys shifted to Fayetteville, where Weeks presided over a hearing at which he delayed Robinson's hearing until January. It had been scheduled to begin next week.

Robinson, 38, who is black, was sentenced to death after being convicted of shooting and killing Erik Tornblom, a white man, during a 1991 robbery.

The Racial Justice Act allows death row inmates to challenge their sentence on the grounds of racial bias. Robinson has alleged that prosecutors excluded a disproportionate number of blacks from his trial jury.

Almost all of the 157 inmates on North Carolina's death row have filed appeals under the 2-year-old law. Winning an appeal under the law commutes a death sentence to one of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

39 Comments

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  • quaten Nov 11, 2011

    A racialy equivalent judge is the perfect choice.

  • Uhavenoclu Nov 10, 2011

    That's a mistake for there are more blacks racist against whites then the other way around.
    Most blacks hate whites for what happened hundreds of years ago...sorry slavery went on in every country around the world not just here,read your history like the flag that was part of our countries history but people only associate it with what happened in the 60s....Freedom....We have the freedom to like or dislike anything or anybody for whatever reason we like.

  • fayncmike Nov 10, 2011

    "WRAL ERIKS SCHOOLMATE ASKED IF HE WOULD GIVE HIM AND ROBINSON A RIDE HE SAID OK ROBIINSON HAD THE GUN TOLD ERIK WERE TO GO AND THEN KILLED HIM AND THEN STOLE HIS MONEY AND CAR ERIK WAS THE ONE BEING ROBBED NAD MURDERD IT WAS JUST NOT DURING A ROBBERY THE TORNBLOM BOY WAS THE VICTIM IN THIS NOT ROBINSONS COLOR OF HIS SKIN BUT MAYBE THE COLOR OF ERIKS SKIN GOT HIM MURDRED HE WAS WHITE I HOPE THIS IS POLITICALY CORRECT???
    cwbauer55"

    I don't know what you've written here but if you stop SHOUTING, I"ll read it.

  • cwbauer55 Nov 10, 2011

    WRAL ERIKS SCHOOLMATE ASKED IF HE WOULD GIVE HIM AND ROBINSON A RIDE HE SAID OK ROBIINSON HAD THE GUN TOLD ERIK WERE TO GO AND THEN KILLED HIM AND THEN STOLE HIS MONEY AND CAR ERIK WAS THE ONE BEING ROBBED NAD MURDERD IT WAS JUST NOT DURING A ROBBERY THE TORNBLOM BOY WAS THE VICTIM IN THIS NOT ROBINSONS COLOR OF HIS SKIN BUT MAYBE THE COLOR OF ERIKS SKIN GOT HIM MURDRED HE WAS WHITE I HOPE THIS IS POLITICALY CORRECT???

  • sunshine1040 Nov 10, 2011

    I thought I read something about an equal rights amendment being passed a few years ago. It was equal for all not separate. My mistake I guess it must not have passed and MR King was blowing smoke when he said somithing abotu a person not being judged by the color of his skin etc

  • cwbauer55 Nov 10, 2011

    I BELIVE THAT THERE ARE ALOT MORE GUILTY IN PRISON THAN NOT GUILTY SO THEY ARE TRYED BY THIER PEERS OH BY THE WAY EVERYONE IN PRISON SAYS THEY DID NOT DO IT .AND 160lilsis IS ON THE MONEY SO SEND ROBINSON TO THE CHAMBER HE HAS LIVED LONGER THAN HE SHOULD HAVE.

  • justabumer Nov 10, 2011

    Does the racial justice act mean that an entire segment of the population won't be held accountable for their actions?

  • Always160 Nov 10, 2011

    Actually it is not more cost effecient to keep an inmate alive. They spend more in healthcare keeping an older inmate alive and healthy by treating everything including life threatening illnesses rather than legal fees. There have been several research articles written regarding this issue but the liberal media never mentions them. Also, this issue has "never been seen" by the defense b/c they just made up this crazy statitistical law to continue to ride their cash cow (death row inmate) rather than allow justice to prevail. No one is arguing that Robinson is innocent. He is not...ELEVEN days after being released for maximum time on a probation violation he kidnapped, robbed and murdered a young man b/c this young man gave Robinson and his friend a ride and Robinson wanted what little money this young man had and the car stereo! This jury made the right choice and it is unfair for people to question this jury after they are the ones who heard the FACTS!

  • americaneel Nov 10, 2011

    They haven't updated this article yet but it was just announced that going forward whites will represent whites, Chinese will represent Chinese, Hispanic will represent Hispanic, etc. Probably wil slow down the process by about 1-2 years but in this sensistive wrold that we live in this will be best. Wouldnt want to hurt anyones feelings.

  • fayncmike Nov 10, 2011

    "I think we can really simplify the issue, if a person regardless of race or sex is convicted of murder then execute them. This way no one can complain, and the tax payers do not have to pay the bill for life with out parole.
    cruse68q"

    Three simple reasons why not.
    1, We should not become savages just because the killer is.
    2, What if the person is later found to be innocent.
    3, It costs way more to for the state murder a convicted criminal than to keep him in prison for life.

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