Friday, April 11, 2014

Supreme Court to hear Racial Justice Act Cases Monday

On Monday, April 14, 2014 at 9:30 a.m., the N.C. Supreme Court will hear the cases of four defendants — Marcus Robinson, Tilmon Golphin, Quintel Augustine and Christina Walters — who were removed from death row in 2012 under the N.C. Racial Justice Act. Later this year, the justices will decide whether to uphold the N.C. Superior Court’s decision to resentence the four inmates to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole because of pervasive racial bias in their trials. The state appealed the decision, despite being unable to rebut the compelling evidence presented by the defendants in their 2012 hearing.
 
The case so far

Robinson, Golphin, Augustine and Walters were the first of North Carolina’s approximately 150 death row inmates to have their cases heard under the Racial Justice Act, a groundbreaking law intended to root out racial discrimination in capital cases. All four defendants proved that racial bias infected their trials and that African-Americans are systematically denied the right to serve on capital juries.

During their 2012 hearings, the defendants presented evidence that prosecutors in Cumberland County, where they were tried, took racially charged notes during the jury selection process (noting, for example, that one juror was a “black wino”). Cumberland prosecutors also participated in a training seminar, sponsored by the N.C. Conference of District Attorneys, where prosecutors from across North Carolina were taught ways to get around the law barring them from striking jurors based on race. After listening to weeks of testimony and sorting through documents and statistics that spanned decades, Superior Court Judge Gregory Weeks said he found “a wealth of evidence showing the persistent, pervasive, and distorting role of race in jury selection throughout North Carolina.”

The Racial Justice Act was enacted in 2009, on the heels of the exonerations of three black men on North Carolina’s death row. The law allowed inmates who prove that racial bias contributed to their death sentences to be resentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Most of North Carolina’s death row inmates filed claims under the law, after a study from Michigan State University found that qualified black jurors in North Carolina were more than twice as likely as whites to be removed from juries by prosecutors, with the use of peremptory strikes. The Michigan State researchers reviewed 173 capital trials in North Carolina between 1990 and 2010.

Despite the compelling evidence of racial bias presented by Robinson, Golphin, Augustine and Walters — the only four defendants to have their cases heard under the law — state legislators repealed the Racial Justice Act in 2013. However, the claims made under the law are still pending, and the courts will decide whether those cases go forward. Next week’s hearings are expected to address only the four defendants whose cases have been appealed.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Jonathan Richardson Sentenced to Death

Yesterday, a jury sentenced Jonathan Richardson to death in Johnston County. The case was covered extensively in media outlets.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Juan Rodriguez Sentenced to Death

Last week, a Forsyth County Jury sentenced Juan Rodriguez to death in the killing and decapitation of his wife. The jury took a little over 2 hours to impose the sentence and rejected all proposed mitigating factors in the case.

There were many reasons to doubt in Mr. Rodriguez' case. A medical examiner placed the time of death in the case after Mr. Rodriguez had already been arrested. Mr. Rodriguez had a well documented history of mental retardation -- and an IQ of 61, which should have made him ineligible for death. The jury rejected this evidence. The jury then rejected strong mitigation evidence of Mr. Rodriguez's low intellectual functioning, his post-traumatic stress from growing up in war torn El Savador in unbelieveable poverty.

Notably, the victim's family opposed the death penalty--opposition which was ignored by the Forsyth District Attorney.


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Three On-Going Capital Murder Trials

Three capital murder cases continue to slog forward:

Juan Rodriguez in Forsyth County. Jury has convicted of 1st degree murder and rejected mental retardation. The jury is currently considering penalty phase evidence.

Jonathan Richardson in Johnston County. Guilt phase closings are expected early next week.

Armond Devega in Wake County. Jury selection is nearing completion.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Away from the Blog

Sorry I've been away from the blog so long, my few readers. Due to work issues and a trial, I had no time for about 4 months and then just got out of the habit for another 8. I'm slowly updating the cite. As I add in COA and NCSC cases, I will back date them to keep the continuity, as well as the few news items from the past I will add in.

Thanks for your views!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Life in Mecklenburg County

Last week, a Charlotte jury returned a life sentence after convicting Justin Hurd of a gangland assassination, triple homicide, linked to a drug ring. The victims were stabbed and burned. Two of the victims were killed because they were eye-witnesses.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Death Sentence in Iredell County

Bernard Lamp was sentenced to die for the 2008 murder of Bonnie Lou Irvine.

According to press reports, Irvine responded to a craigslist ad from Mr. Lamp and was not seen again, until he was found driving her car and she was found buried in a shallow grave. Press reports that the defense argued there was no direct evidence linking Lamp to the murder and that there was no evidence that a 1st degree murder was committed.

When he was convicted of first degree murder, Lamp protested his innocence and tried to fire his attorneys. He eventually recanted, but not before serious questions as to his competency were raised.