State News

NC judge sets Racial Justice Act appeals for October

Posted July 5, 2012
Updated July 6, 2012

— Three North Carolina death row inmates could have their sentences reviewed in October under the revised Racial Justice Act, while the status of a fourth inmate's appeal is unclear.

Superior Court Judge Greg Weeks held preliminary hearings in the four cases Friday morning in Fayetteville.

Tye Hunter, executive director of the Durham-based Center for Death Penalty Litigation, said the four convicted murderers want to have their sentences reduced to life in prison under the original Racial Justice Act, not the amended version passed by the General Assembly last month.

The landmark 2009 law allowed death row prisoners to use statistics to show that racial bias influenced their sentences, but the Republican-led General Assembly overrode Gov. Beverly Perdue's veto on Monday to roll back much of the law. Now, statistics alone aren't enough to have a death sentence commuted, and the inmate must also introduce evidence pertinent to his or her case.

The cases Weeks heard Friday are those of Tilmon Golphin, a 34-year-old black man; Quintel Augustine, a 34-year-old black man; Christina Walters, a 33-year-old American Indian woman; and Jeffrey Meyer, a 45-year-old white man. All were convicted of first-degree murder in Cumberland County.

Golphin and his underage brother, Kevin, were convicted of gunning down two law officers in 1997 after their stolen car was pulled over on Interstate 95. Augustine was part of a group of four who taunted Fayetteville police Officer Roy Turner Jr. and then shot him in the head and shoulder once he got out of his car. Walters, as part of a gang initiation, abducted and shot three teenage girls in 1998, killing two of them. Meyer and an accomplice, who dressed in black ninja garb and were allegedly inspired by the tabletop game "Dungeons and Dragons," killed an elderly couple in 1986 with a blowgun and knives.

Golphin, Augustine and Walters will have their hearings on Oct. 1. They asked to proceed under both the 2009 law and the amended law.

Widow says race played no part in killer's death sentence Widow says race played no part in killer's death sentence

There was no word on whether Meyer will continue with his appeal or when a hearing would be held if he does.

"It's just ridiculous, and it needs to end," said Dixie Davis, the widow of North Carolina State Highway Patrol Trooper Ed Lowery, one of the officers the Golphin brothers killed.

"These people are evil. It's not because of their color. They are evil," Davis said. "If they had been pink or purple or white, it would be the same thing. They still did the crime."

Nearly all of North Carolina's 150-plus death row inmates filed for reviews after the 2009 act passed. Proponents of the rollback said the recent amendments were needed to keep the state's courts from being bogged down.

The new law provides 60 days for inmates to revise their appeals to comply with the amendments to the 2009 law, but it is not clear if the original appeals are still valid.

"It definitely kind of murkies the water in that you've had a lot of change, and to some extent it's up in the air," said Hunter, who is helping represent the four convicts. "It is certainly going to cause a lot more litigation."

The original appeals, Hunter said, will likely take years to move through state courts. He said they might be appealed all the way to the state Supreme Court and through federal courts as well.

"It's not as straightforward as some people have assumed," Hunter said.

It's no coincidence that the case is in Weeks' court. Hunter said the testing of the new law was chosen for Cumberland County because of Weeks' prior experience with the Racial Justice Act.

In the first and only case under the 2009 Racial Justice Act, Weeks ruled that condemned killer Marcus Robinson's 1991 trial was racially influenced to the point where Robinson should be removed from death row.

Robinson is a black man convicted of killing a white teenager in 1991 and was almost executed in 2007. Weeks said he found highly reliable a study by two Michigan State University law professors who analyzed the influence of race in the North Carolina judicial system. They found prosecutors eliminated black jurors more than twice as often as white jurors and that a defendant is nearly three times more likely to be sentenced to death if at least one of the victims is white.

As they did in Robinson's case, state attorneys tried to disqualify Weeks from the case, saying they might call him as a witness because he heard two of the capital cases included in the Michigan State study.

Weeks denied the motion Friday, ruling that judges aren't allowed to testify as to mental impressions, mental processes or thought processes in cases.


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  • com_mon_sents Jul 6, 2012

    This just sickens me. I can not see anyone giving them a chance. They all commited vicious crimes and rightfully charged!!! They don't deserve anything. Their sentencing was justified for thier crime. It has nothing to do with their race. Amazes me what this country has come to.

  • aetius476 Jul 6, 2012

    I guess this whole Racial Injustice Act is part of the larger "reparations" movement.

    Letting people of color off from the ultimate penalty because of their race is payback for past wrongs.

    The victims of these "disadvantaged" and "at risk" individuals were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    A lifetime with 3 hots and a cot, central AC, weight room, library, classes, free medical and dental, is far better than any of these folks could have hoped for on the "outside".

  • westernwake1 Jul 6, 2012

    Another judical ruling that is a slap in the face to all the victims and their families.

  • mediawatcher Jul 6, 2012

    Good grief! So these people think that they can murder people but get out of the death penalty because they happen to be minorities? No, they got their sentences because of the crimes they committed and nothing else, not even race, had anything to do with it. They were horrible crimes and they should be made to pay.

  • Spock Jul 6, 2012

    And yet another total waste of the taxpayer monies.

  • DontVote4LiarsCheatsOrThieves Jul 6, 2012

    There's always going to be uncertainty in fairness until someone devises a schedule of fines and penalties for crimes and makes judges and magistrates follow them to a "t".

  • Tax Man Jul 6, 2012

    Why not allow judge weeks to "sit in" for the death penalty for all of those he chooses to commute to life without parole? at least we would get some action!

  • dancerdot Jul 6, 2012

    Judge Weeks and Attorney Tye Hunter, the Golphin brothers killed the husband of my co-worker who was a guidance counselor at Souhview High School. I saw the emotional pain the spouse went through because of the Golphins' inhumanity to man. Kristine Walters killed my senior high school student Tracie. Walters was part of a gang who shot Tracy with a blue bullet merely for initiation into the gang. The students in Traci's class, her mom, and I were in tears because of Walter's inhumanity to another human being. The infamous Ninja killers killed the parents of friends with whom I attended church. Again, here is another example of man's inhumanity to man. Race or culture has nothing to do with the real problem that these people of no moral integrity exhibit. All four made the decision to take another's life. All four of these poor excuses for a human being have contributed to unintended consequences on people in the community. Judge Weeks has not one ounce of moral integrity if h

  • wayneuber Jul 6, 2012

    More careful attention to the sources of the statistical misinformation presented by those who represent death row inmates would reveal that the studies are sponsored by anti-death penalty groups. The authors of the studies simply cherry-picked the numbers which suited them and dismissed everything else. Weeks' decision was based on flawed information which was spoonfed to him by persons who have only one concern (protecting their clients on death row).

  • bill0 Jul 6, 2012

    " Besides according to the latest stats white america's are now the minority! When is that going to be the latest cause?" dare107

    Ugh - wrong. Not sure where you get your stats, but whites are still a majority in the US and it isn't really close.