Challenges to Jury Selection Continue under North Carolina's Racial Justice Act
On October 2, Judge Gregory Weeks heard testimony regarding racial bias in jury selection, as three North Carolina death row inmates challenged their sentences under the state's Racial Justice Act. Prof. Barbara O’Brien of Michigan State University provided statistical evidence of racial bias in the frequent rejection of African-American potential jurors from death penalty trials in the state. According to O'Brien's study, qualified black jurors were twice as likely to be dismissed from serving in North Carolina death penalty cases as non-black jurors. Her study analyzed jury selection patterns under both the Racial Justice Act of 2009 and the more restrictive version that lawmakers passed in 2012, since there is dispute over which version of the law applies to the defendants. O'Brien found racial bias under both standards and in the cases of the individual defendants. Earlier in 2012, Judge Weeks had reduced Marcus Robinson's death sentence to life because of racial bias found in his case.
(P. Woolverton, "Racial Justice Act witness Barbara O'Brien says statistics show blacks excused more than whites in capital cases," Fayetteville Observer, October 3, 2012). See Race. Listen to DPIC's podcast on Race.