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Ruling: Four convicted killers must again make case for racial bias

Posted December 18, 2015

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— The North Carolina Supreme Court on Friday vacated the orders that moved four convicted killers off death row and ordered new hearings in their cases.

Superior Court Judge Greg Weeks in 2012 commuted the sentences for Marcus Reymond Robinson, Tilmon Golphin, Christina S. “Queen” Walters and Quintel Augustine to life in prison without parole under the Racial Justice Act.

The law, which lawmakers enacted in 2009 but repealed four years later, allowed inmates to use statistical evidence of racial bias to challenge their death sentences.

The Supreme Court said Weeks made two errors in the cases: He didn't allow the state enough time to prepare for the hearings, and he combined three unrelated cases in one hearing.

But lawyers for the inmates noted that the ruling didn't alter Weeks' findings of racial bias in jury selection in the four cases.

"We are confident that, no matter how many hearings are held or studies completed, we will win this case. The evidence of racial bias in jury selection is simply overwhelming and undeniable," defense attorney Jay Ferguson said in a statement. "All this decision will do is add more delays and cost the state millions to conduct new studies and hold new hearings. We will be throwing more taxpayer money into a hopelessly broken death penalty.

"As a state, we cannot ignore this troubling evidence that racial bias infects the death penalty from the very beginning of the process. When we cannot even choose the jury fairly, we surely cannot ensure fair trials and outcomes for defendants facing execution," Ferguson said.

Golphin and his brother killed a State Highway Patrol trooper and a Cumberland County deputy in 1997, Augustine was convicted of murdering a Fayetteville police officer in 2001, Robinson killed a Fayetteville teen in 1991 and Walters was found guilty of kidnapping three girls and killing two of them in 1998 in a gang-initiation ritual.

The Supreme Court encouraged both sides to present additional statistical studies when the cases are heard again.

The Cumberland County District Attorney's Office declined to comment on the ruling.

The decision will keep executions on hold indefinitely in North Carolina. The last execution in the state came in 2006, as questions raised by the Racial Justice Act and legal disputes over a physician's role in executions and the protocol the state uses to carry out lethal injections have bogged down capital punishment since then.

13 Comments

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  • Roscoe P Coltrane Dec 21, 2015
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    I know what the defense is claiming about racial bias, in jury selection. What I don't know, is why you cannot comprehend my words. They have not changed.
    I do not care if there was racial bias. They committed the crime of murder. That should end in death. What do you not get? How much more clear can I make it? If I used crayons, would that help your feeble mind?

  • Natasha Teasley Dec 19, 2015
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    They are claiming they were convicted based on racial bias. Unless you are admitting to being at the scene of the crime then it should be investigated if there was in fact racial bias that influenced prosecution. There have been a number of cases where everyone was convinced of guilt that have ended up costing the state millions. We should be certain that there was no mitigating circumstances before we put someone away and 10 years from now discover we were wrong to the tune of a few million a year.

  • John Johnson Dec 19, 2015
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    Wow, Race !! Right.. Taking NO Responsibilty, Again, For their Choices/Action.. A Person who Purposely Committing A Crime is A Criminal.. The Victims or Police Didn't make them Choices..

  • King Mopar Dec 18, 2015
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    First off...a LEO's life is no more important than mine, my wife's or child. Justice should be the same and death should be the only option. Get rid of this scum, from our world. Yea...you might find God while in your cell, but we..as the public...will put you first in line to talk to Him. You know..Moses, under God's command...told his Army to kill EVERYTHING...things like you.

  • Ron Coleman Dec 18, 2015
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    I am so sick and tired of the way people to are so quick to say it is because of race when something is done that does not benefit them. I have not heard one time from these criminals that they are fighting this because they are innocent, not once. Now as I understand the law if you commit aggravated murder in NC you are eligible for the death penalty so what is the problem. They all killed people they are not fighting that, they are saying that the only reason they got the death penalty is because they are black. Wake up convicts the reason you got the death penalty is because of your actions not because of the color of your skin. I hope that when this is all over and if the ruling is not in their favor that they are juiced up within a couple of weeks after the decision.

  • Roscoe P Coltrane Dec 18, 2015
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    Right back at you toots. I didn't say they committed the crime for racial bias. I was speaking of the questioned racial bias in the jury selection. Please enlighten me, as to how you made your conclusion. It still doesn't change the fact that they committed the crime of murder. So I say again, "I don't care if it was racial bias. They murdered someone, That should end in death."

    You are right though, reading comprehension is your friend. Try it some day.

  • Karin Brezin Dec 18, 2015
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    Withj all due respect, prosecutors are NOT the only ones choosing the jury members and defense lawyers WANT the jury to be made up of certain types of people to better the chances for their clients. It seems to me that the burden of proof as well as the "guilt" of the make up of the jury rests solely on the prosecutors and that's just not fair. I was here when the Golphin brothers did their deeds and they both deserve the death penalty in my book and I was also here when Christina Walters and the others in her group killed thos e two young women. If they feel they can take someone's life--in some of these cases several lives--then they too should be punished. They sure didn't feel remorse until they were caught and had to pay for their actions! It definitely wasn't because of the color of their skin, it was because of their actions that they received the death penalty.

  • Roy Jones Dec 18, 2015
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    Can anyone other than a liberal understand why a person who killed a law enforcement officer is not being executed. Race did not have anything to do with him killing the officer in cold blood for not wanting a ticket. Liberals be careful what you are trying to accomplish America is on the verge of being the Wild West again kill on site ask questions later it's already started in Durham you town may be next, think about. It

  • Wayne Uber Dec 18, 2015
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    Weeks disappointed many friends and family members of murder victims with his decision. Now that his work has been overridden perhaps these cases can make their way through the system.

  • Natasha Teasley Dec 18, 2015
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    Reading comprehension is your friend. No one claims they committed the crime for racial bias.

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