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Gov. Easley Commutes Inmate's Death Sentence

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Gov. Mike Easley, a former prosecutor whoseability to fairly hear clemency petitions was challenged by a deathrow inmate, on Tuesday commuted the man's death sentence to life inprison.

Robert Bacon Jr. was to have been executed by injection at 2a.m. Friday for the 1987 stabbing death of his lover's husband inOnslow County.

His execution had originally been scheduled for May, but wasdelayed when his lawyers challenged Easley's power to consider aclemency petition, based on the governor's past work as aprosecutor and state attorney general. It was delayed again lastmonth when Easley said the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks hinderedBacon's access to courts.

Bacon's lawyers claimed Easley was biased because he had arguedfor the death penalty in his previous jobs. The state SupremeCourt, which had allowed Easley to hold a clemency hearing in May,ultimately rejected the appeal.

Easley had not announced a decision on the clemency petitionuntil now.

"I am satisfied that the prosecutors and judges acted fairlyand professionally in this case," he said in a statement Tuesday."However, as governor, my review of this matter in its totalitycauses me to conclude that the appropriate sentence for thedefendant is life without parole," Easley said.

Prosecutors argued that Bacon's lover, Bonnie Clark, plotted thekilling of her husband, Marine Sgt. Glennie Clark, for a share of a$130,000 life insurance policy. Mrs. Clark received a life sentencefor the murder.

"We're just thrilled," said Bacon's attorney, Gretchen Engelof the Center for Death Penalty Litigation. "I haven't told Robertyet, but I'm headed for the prison right now to tell him. This iswhat he deserves."

She referred to one of two pending federal appeals, which arguesthat Bacon's jury was racially biased.

"I think this case was just so unfair and Easley saw that,"she said. "Easley has demonstrated sensitivity to the racialissues and the issues of fairness tonight."

That appeal, filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, contends thatBacon's execution should be delayed until a commission of theOrganization of American States holds a hearing on allegations ofjury bias.

A former juror said in an affidavit that jurors talked aboutrace when deliberating the case. Bacon is black and Clark is white.

The other appeal, filed in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court ofAppeals, argues again that Easley is biased.

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