Updated: Dec 28, 2020
“In 1994, Marcus Robinson, who is black, was convicted of murder and sentenced to death for the 1991 killing of Erik Tornblom, a white teenager, in Cumberland County, North Carolina. He spent nearly 20 years on death row, but in 2012 his sentence was changed to life without a chance of parole. He was one of four death row inmates whose sentences were commuted by a judge who found that racial discrimination had played a role in their trials.”
Now, with the legislature’s repeal of the Racial Justice Act, Robinson and three other inmates’ sentences previously reviewed for racial bias are now unclear.
“Discrimination in jury selection has been prohibited since it was banned by the Supreme Court in its 1986 Supreme Court decision Batson v. Kentucky, but Robinson’s trial was infected with it. The prosecutor in the case, John Dickson, disproportionately refused eligible black potential jurors. For example, he struck one black potential juror because the man had been once charged with public drunkenness. However, he accepted two “nonblack” people with DWI convictions. Of the eligible members of the pool, he struck half the black people and only 14 percent of the nonblack members. In the end, Robinson was tried by a 12-person jury that included only three people of color—one Native American individual and two black people.”
Read more at Mother Jones.