On Monday, Feb. 26, we filled the Johnston County Courthouse for the start of a landmark hearing that will reveal the full scope of the NC death penalty’s racism. During more than a week of testimony, attorneys will lay out incontrovertible evidence that the North Carolina death penalty is a tool of white supremacy. The crowd that packed the courtroom on Monday sent a clear message: The people of North Carolina are watching. Our presence was especially meaningful in Johnston County, where racism has been not just pervasive but, at times, proudly displayed.
Racial Justice Act
A man who has spent nearly 30 years on death row finally had a chance to present evidence that Black jurors were illegally excluded from his trial. Frank Chambers, a Black man, was sent to death row in 1994 by a Rowan County jury that included only a single non-white member. The evidence of discrimination was so extensive that the hearing took an entire week.
Russell Tucker was a Black man facing the death penalty in the South in the “tough-on-crime” 1990s. He deserved the chance to be tried by a jury of his peers. However, a Forsyth County prosecutor came up with reason after reason why Black people could not remain on the jury. On Feb. 8, Mr. Tucker’s attorneys will present evidence to the NC Supreme Court that jurors were illegally excluded because of their race.
We already know from our experience with the Racial Justice Act how prosecutors work to keep juries in capital cases overwhelmingly white, using the tool of peremptory strikes. Now, new […]
Reposted from the Center for Death Penalty Litigation Earlier this month, Marcus Robinson was found dead in his cell at Scotland Correctional Institution. The prison ruled it a suicide. He […]
No one should have been on the edge of their seat about the verdict in Derek Chauvin’s trial. He was caught on video kneeling on George Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes as Floyd begged for his life. But this is America, where police are almost never held accountable, so we held our breath and prepared for Chauvin to be acquitted. But in this rare case, a jury of six white, four Black and two multiracial people provided a measure of justice, finding Chauvin guilty of murder. Surely, the jury’s diverse makeup helped it reach this much-needed verdict. Yet, it’s exactly this kind of diversity that prosecutors often work to avoid. They strike Black citizens from juries at far higher rates than whites. Then, when they’re accused of violating the law prohibiting racist jury strikes, they offer the flimsiest possible defenses. And no matter how implausible their excuses are, they almost always get away with it.
This article was originally published on June 17, 2020 in the NC Policy Watch. When I was a young Black lawyer in the late 1960’s and 1970’s, there was […]
The Center for Death Penalty Litigation’s June 5 2020 Press Release: The North Carolina Supreme Court today issued two landmark civil rights rulings on the Racial Justice Act, clearing the […]
In these days of COVID, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by bad news. But we shouldn’t forget to celebrate good news, and we’ve had a little of that in the past week. On Friday, the North Carolina Supreme Court issued a decision that sends a clear message: North Carolina’s courts must finally begin to take the exclusion of black jurors seriously. The decision says that, when a person on trial suggests that a prosecutor struck a juror because of the juror’s race, the courts must fully investigate. They must consider the history of disproportionate jury strikes in the county, and compare the treatment of white people and people of color in the jury pool to see if it’s been equal. If these sound like no brainers, that’s because they are. This is the least the courts can do to begin to end the decades-long practice of denying people of color a voice in the criminal punishment system.
At the end of August, our movement made history. A group of talented attorneys from across the state and the nation argued before the North Carolina Supreme Court. At issue […]
A big day is coming up, and we need your help! Beginning one week from today, North Carolina’s highest court will hear six cases under the North Carolina Racial Justice Act. These cases go to the heart of our fight to end the racist death penalty. They include stunning evidence of racism in death penalty trials. The court will have to decide whether that evidence will get its day in court, or whether it will be thrown away. The decision comes down to whether the state will be allowed to execute people whose death sentences are tainted by racism.
Black people have a constitutional right to serve on juries, just like white people. That should go without saying. But the reality is that prosecutors use all kinds of tricks […]
Last week, the Supreme Court halted the execution of Keith Tharpe in Georgia because of a juror’s admission that he voted for death because he believed Tharpe was a “n—-r.” It might be tempting to believe this case was just an anomaly. But Keith Tharpe is far from the only defendant to be sentenced to death by a deeply racist juror.