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Retired prosecutors to research bias claims

Posted August 31, 2010

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— The state court system, which is already strained by case backlogs, has devised a plan to keep claims of racial bias in death penalty cases from clogging the courts even more.

Of the 159 inmates on North Carolina's death row, 152 have filed claims under the state's Racial Justice Act. Another 50 claims have been filed in cases awaiting trial.

The year-old law allows the inmates to use statistics and other evidence to prove racial bias resulted in the death sentences, and they are asking that their sentences be converted to life in prison without parole.

Probation Bias claims present challenge for courts

"The monumental task is the collection of information to respond to these motions," said Peg Dorer, executive director of the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys.

The organization has put together a team of former prosecutors to look at cases with Racial Justice Act claims, including reviewing trends in 16,000 first-degree murder cases prosecuted in the state over the past 20 years. Money from the state Administrative Office of the Courts will pay for the part-time help.

The goal is to help individual prosecutors prepare for arguments they'll face in court, Dorer said.

"They haven't started slowing things down. This is going to be going on for four years or longer," she said.

Tye Hunter, executive director of the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, a Durham nonprofit that represents inmates on death row, has suggested consolidating all of the Racial Justice Act cases so one judge could hear them, saving the state time and money.

"It's made me smile a little bit because the state says this is going to clog the court system," Hunter said. "Then, we've filed motions saying let's consolidate them so we don't clog the courts up, and their response to that is no."

Prosecutors say each case is different and must be examined individually, so they cannot be handled together.


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  • BubbaDuke Sep 1, 2010

    Here is a fascinating statistic: 99.999% of the people on death row are guilty of murder. Who woulda thought!

    Any intelligent person understands that the liklihood of every violent criminal getting the same prejudiced jurors and the same racist judges in all of the courtrooms in our state are pretty slim. Every criminal is afforded more rights than his or her victim and is tried by a jury of their peers. It doesn't matter if the peers are not of the same race, or even the same economic background as the accused as long as they are citizens of the community in which the case is tried. It only takes one juror to keep a jury from coming to the unanimous decision, so the odds of stacking a jury against the accused is miniscule. Add to that that most jurors are aware that they could be accused of being racists by returning a guilty verdict. It doesn't take a professional to know that if someone ends up on death row, it's because they are guilty, not victims of our judicial system.

  • dmurphy0496 Sep 1, 2010

    Let’s screw things up even more….let get more attorneys involved.

  • josep4567 Sep 1, 2010

    fox in the henhouse!

  • jbarron4950 Sep 1, 2010

    Has anyone who is posting about this article ever lied? It doesn't matter whether you were a child, adolescent or adult, have you ever lied? If so, I assume that nothing you have ever said is the truth.

  • Adelinthe Sep 1, 2010

    DeathRow - "Did you kill someone. Yes. Did you do it with malicious intent. Yes. Were you provoked. No... You get Death."

    Those questions should be prefaced by this one -

    "Have you ever lied."

    If so, then there's no need to ask the rest, and the resolution of the cases gets complicated.

    God bless.


  • Adelinthe Sep 1, 2010

    Probably a good place to start, plus gives a retiree a little more income.

    God bless.


  • DeathRow-IFeelYourPain-NOT Sep 1, 2010

    Should be able to clear most all of those in the next week or two.

    Did you kill someone. Yes. Did you do it with malicious intent. Yes. Were you provoked. No... You get Death.