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Supreme Court rejects appeal under NC racial bias law

Posted October 3

Death row inmates Christina "Queen" Walters and Tilmon Golphin learn during a Dec. 13, 2012, hearing that their sentences have been commuted to life in prison after a judge determined racial bias was a factor in jury selection before their trials.

— The Supreme Court will not hear an appeal from four former death row inmates in North Carolina who claimed systemic racial bias contributed to their death sentences.

The justices said Monday they will not disturb a state Supreme Court ruling that could result in new death sentences for the three African-American and one Native American inmates.

The death sentences of Marcus Robinson, Christina "Queen" Walters, Tilmon Golphin and Quintel Augustine were commuted to life in prison without parole in 2012 under the state's Racial Justice Act, which allowed death row inmates to use statistical evidence of racial bias in court proceedings to challenge their sentences.

The North Carolina Supreme Court last year reinstated the death sentences for all four, ruling that retired Superior Court Judge Gregory Weeks made a mistake when he combined three unrelated cases into one hearing and didn't give state attorneys enough time to prepare.

Augustine was convicted of murdering a Fayetteville police officer in 2001, while Walters was found guilty of kidnapping three girls and killing two of them in 1998 in a gang-initiation ritual. Robinson, who became the first death row inmate to successfully challenge his sentence under the Racial Justice Act, killed a Fayetteville teen in 1991.

Appeals filed under the law are among several legal issues that have essentially halted the death penalty in North Carolina, where no one has been executed in more than 10 years.


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  • Herbie Beasley Oct 3, 3:29 p.m.
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    Finish the article WRAL: Tilmon Golphin and his brother Kevin were pulled over in a stolen car on I95 near Fayetteville. They went on to kill a Cumberland County Sherriff's deputy and a NC State Highway Patrolman in an attempt to get away. They then shot at the civilian several times who followed them while he was on the phone with 911 trying to lead the authorities to them as they headed North on I95 immediately after shooting the 2 LEOs with an SKS rifle, and finishing the officers off with one of their own .40 caliber sidearms, and leaving their bodies in the median of I95 where they had originally been pulled over.

  • Nicolle Leney Oct 3, 1:19 p.m.
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    While I believe there are probably numerous cases of racial bias, especially in older trials, these are all cases where the death penalty was a likely conclusion.

    From some of the archived articles, "Robinson and co-defendant Roderick Williams Jr. murdered Tornblom in 1991 after the teen gave his killers a ride from a Fayetteville convenience store. Tornblom was forced to drive to a field where he was shot with a sawed-off shotgun." and "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."

    There are definitely people where the change from the death penalty to life in prison made sense. These are not those people.

  • Maggie Foege Oct 3, 12:40 p.m.
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    I don't understand this article. Are they on death row now or not? It sounds like they were put on life, then returned to death row? Which appeal is being rejected?

  • Mike Morin Oct 3, 11:59 a.m.
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    The state needs to carry out this sentence ASAP and rid the world of this vermin.