State News

Judge expected to rule Friday in NC racial justice case

Posted April 20, 2012

— A North Carolina judge is expected to issue a precedent-setting ruling on Friday in the first case under a state law that lets death row prisoners use statistical evidence to argue racial bias played a role in their sentences. 

Superior Court Judge Greg Weeks is expected to announce his ruling in the case of Marcus Robinson, a 38-year-old man who was sentenced to death in Cumberland County for the 1991 murder of 17-year-old Erik Tornblom, around 10 a.m. Friday in Fayetteville. Death Row, Death Penalty, Execution archive: Racial Justice Act

(Watch Judge Weeks' ruling on beginning at 10 a.m.)

Robinson's lawyers argued in February that race was a factor in prosecution decisions to reject potential jurors who were black. His defense team cites a Michigan State University study that concluded black jurors were more likely to be dismissed that white jurors. 

The study also found that a defendant in North Carolina is 2.6 times more likely to be sentenced to death if at least one of the victims is white.

John Dickson, a former assistant district attorney in Cumberland County who was a prosecutor in Robinson's case, said in February that race "in no way, shape or form" played a role in jury selection. 

If Weeks agrees on Friday that racial bias played a role in the case, Robinson would be re-sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. 

State lawmakers tried last year to roll back the Racial Justice Act, but Gov. Beverly Perdue vetoed the effort and an override vote fell short. A House committee is now looking at ways to narrow the scope of the law.


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  • scarlett2 Apr 20, 2012

    Aren't potential jurors thoroughly questioned beforehand regarding any issues that would prejudice their judgement in a trial? If I am on a jury, I would be considering the evidence and the facts of the case, I wouldn't care if you were a blue man from Mars, race would not affect my decision. If he committed murder, he deserves the death penalty. The court system today is not a deterrent to crime and there is no justice for the victim or their families.

  • HomeGrownNC Apr 20, 2012

    I believe in the Death Penalty, I support the Death Penalty, and I would even throw the switch!!!

    Good thing Your not the Judge, Jury, and Executioner.
    This judicial system has proven itself to be corrupted.

  • wayneuber Apr 20, 2012

    Why can't judges rule on evidence presented on the case at hand? How are statistics from unrelated cases relevant or proof of actual bias?

  • Goalieman Apr 20, 2012

    Life sentence vs death sentence = Taxpayers money vs room for more criminals!!

    Prisons are over crowed now because people don't have to work a job and/or live on the streets. In prison they get 3 square meals, a bed, TV, computers, etc. Prison, to them, is just a way to get by when they don't want to work for a living!

    I believe in the Death Penalty, I support the Death Penalty, and I would even throw the switch!!!

  • Dr.Whew... Apr 20, 2012

    Is he guilty of the crime, if so, does he not deserve the punishment he received, and explain to me please if a black man commits a capital crime that involves a white man he receives a reduced sentence, but the other way around and it’s a Federal Hate Crime.

  • Caring Apr 20, 2012

    What is this world coming too??? If they did the crime then why try and get life instead of death? More money for us tax payers to pay. If these people would stop all this crime and hate crimes the world would be a better place. People need to pay for their actions period!!!

  • scoutmomof2 Apr 20, 2012

    "was race a factor when this black man killed a white man??did he choose his prey because he was white??the race card,like a sword,can cut both ways.he was sentenced to death..carry out what the courts ruled..been too long already..if for no other reason,then show people in this state,that crimes will be punished..then,just maybe,someone might stop and think,before taking a life..
    Yes race was a factor in the murder. He stated he was going to kill a white person. They kidnapped him, made him drive to an isolated spot, shot him in the face and robbed him for $35 and his car. He admitted it and was sentenced to death. There was no life sentence for his victum. Why should there be for him?

  • Harrison Bergeron Apr 20, 2012

    It's too bad that the studies used to prop up this ridiculous law are constantly misconstrued by the statistically challenged.

    Once controlled for aggravating and mitigating circumstances, that 260% difference in probability drops to an ODDS RATIO of 1.6, which reflects a very small difference in overall likelihood.

    The odds ratio for a female victim over a male victim is higher at 1.7. Why no Gender Justice Act?

    The odds ratio for a head-wound involvement is much higher at 2.2. Why No Body Wound Justice Act?

    The odds ratio for a stranger victim is double at 3.8! Why no Familial Justice Act?

  • dcatz Apr 20, 2012

    I no longer agree with the death penalty.

    I do not care for those that are actually guilty of a heinous crime. I care for those that are innocent.

    The state has demonstrated that it is corrupt. I have seen nothing that would make me trust the government when they say that a man is guilty because the SBI and prosecutors frequently forge evidence.

    Really, Greg Taylor's case is all you need to see. If he had been sentenced to death, an innocent man would have been executed. Thankfully, they didn't have that option.

  • Bartmeister Apr 20, 2012

    Time for the death penalty to GO.......................

    .......back into effect