Final arguments are under way in the state's first Racial Justice Act trial,
taking place in Cumberland County.
Lawyers for death row inmate Marcus Robinson argue his sentence was based on
racial bias because, statistically, prosecutors dismiss potential black jurors
more often than white jurors.
Robinson, convicted in 1994, had a jury of 9 whites, 2 blacks and 1 Native
Because RJA claims rely almost exclusively on statistics rather than the facts
of the case itself, numbers have been the focus throughout the course of this
trial. The defense has employed a highly publicized Michigan State University
study, while the state has called on statistician Joseph Katz to refute it.
One interesting fact that has come out presents a kind of Catch-22.
When seating a jury in a death penalty case, prosecutors routinely dismiss
prospective jurors who say they oppose the death penalty.
Surveys consistently show that blacks are much more likely than whites to
oppose the death penalty.
But, according to the RJA, if blacks are disproportionately dismissed from jury
pools, that's evidence of racial bias by the prosecution.
Let's see how Superior Court Judge Greg Weeks sorts that out.
Then we can watch the same or similar dilemmas present themselves in the next
150 or so RJA cases, including five in Guilford County. Maybe they'll all get
done in, oh, about 20 years.
(source: Greensboro News-Record)