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FAYETTEVILLE, NC – Three North Carolina death-row inmates were resentenced to life in prison without parole after a state judge found that racial discrimination in jury selection played a key role in securing their sentences.

Tilmon Golphin, Christina Walters and Quintel Augustine will spend the rest of their lives in prison without the possibility of parole, under the provisions of the North Carolina Racial Justice Act. The law, passed in 2009 and one of only two such statutes in the nation, allows death-row inmates to present evidence that race influenced their sentencing process. All three were represented by the American Civil Liberties Union.

“The Court takes hope that acknowledgment of the ugly truth of race discrimination revealed by Defendants’ evidence is the first step in creating a system of justice that is free from the pernicious influence of race, a system that truly lives up to our ideal of equal justice under the law,” Cumberland County Superior Court Judge Greg Weeks ruled.

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Today the North Carolina House and Senate voted to override Gov. Bev Perdue’s veto of SB 416, a bill that would effectively repeal the state’s historic Racial Justice Act by no longer allowing individuals to use statewide statistics in order to demonstrate racial bias in our state's capital punishment system.

In response, ACLU-NC Policy Director Sarah Preston offered the following comment:

“This is a sad day for justice and for North Carolina. By gutting the Racial Justice Act, our legislature has turned its back on the overwhelming evidence of racial bias in our state’s death penalty system. Politicians have decided they would rather sweep disturbing information under the rug than work to ensure that racial bias plays no role in North Carolina’s death penalty.”

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FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. – A North Carolina judge Friday issued a landmark decision finding intentional and systemic discrimination by state prosecutors against African-American potential jurors in capital cases and commuted the sentence of a death-row prisoner to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The decision on behalf of Marcus Robinson by North Carolina Superior Court Judge Gregory Weeks, the first to be issued under the state’s historic Racial Justice Act, comes nearly 25 years to the day after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in McCleskey v. Kemp that evidence of systemic bias is not sufficient to challenge a death sentence.

Passed in 2009, the Racial Justice Act allows North Carolina’s 157 death row prisoners a hearing in which they can present statistics and other evidence that death sentences state- and county-wide were tainted by race discrimination and that their death should be commuted to life in prison.

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RALEIGH – The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina today praised North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue for vetoing SB 9, a bill that would repeal the state’s landmark Racial Justice Act, and called on members of the General Assembly to sustain her veto in order to prevent executions based on race.

“We applaud Governor Perdue for vetoing a measure that ignores the role that race plays in death penalty cases in North Carolina,” said Sarah Preston, ACLU-NC Policy Director. “The Racial Justice Act is a crucial safeguard against well-documented racial discrimination in our state’s capital punishment system. We strongly urge members of the General Assembly to save this landmark law by sustaining the governor’s veto of SB 9.”