NC case shines rare light on sexism in death penalty jury selection

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Until the middle of the 20th century, the law barred women from jury service. The myth was that women are weak and overly emotional, not rational enough to serve on juries. A brief filed in late September in a North Carolina death penalty case shines a rare light on the persistence of sexist stereotypes in the legal system. Bryan Bell was sentenced to death in Sampson County in 2001. A woman was rejected from his jury because the prosecutor was looking for “strong male” jurors.… Read More

Two death-sentenced men in NC get another chance to prove innocence

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The state Supreme Court recently agreed with two separate death row prisoners that questionable evidence was used at their trials. Both will get new chances to present evidence that could exonerate them. These cases highlight the fact that many of North Carolina’s more than 140 death sentences are based on weak and even false evidence.… Read More

A history-making day in the North Carolina Supreme Court

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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 were the cases of six men and women on death row who have uncovered compelling proof that their sentences were poisoned by racial discrimination. All six filed claims under the North Carolina Racial Justice Act (RJA). Black citizens were illegally excluded from their juries. At least two defendants were tried … Read More

Another innocent person is exonerated after falsely confessing. Here’s how these coerced confessions happen

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Most of us think, “I would never confess to a crime I didn’t commit.” But the sad reality is, people do it all the time. More than a quarter of DNA exonerations involve a false confession. North Carolina’s longest serving death row exonerees, Henry McCollum and Leon Brown, were sentenced to death and spent a combined 60 years in prison because police interrogators manipulated them into taking responsibility for a terrible crime they had nothing to do with. In fact, many American law enforcement officers are trained to conduct interrogations in ways that recklessly encourage false confessions.… Read More

Coming up: Racial Justice Act cases will put evidence of death penalty racism before the North Carolina Supreme Court

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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.… Read More

The whitening of the jury: How discrimination thrives in NC courtrooms

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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 and excuses to stop black citizens from sitting on juries. In this 5-minute audio documentary created by students at Duke’s Center for Documentary Studies, CDPL attorney Johanna Jennings explains how this form of racial discrimination persists in the courtroom. The students did a fabulous job and it’s worth a listen. … Read More

Creating monsters out of human beings

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The failures of our broken criminal legal system don’t just affect the people we incarcerate and condemn to death. The injustice of our system ripples out into the world, affecting countless lives. This weekend, advocates and loved ones of incarcerated people shared their stories at the Carolina Justice Policy Center’s Poetic Justice event. Then, spoken word artists created responsive poems. Here, please read the story shared by attorney Erica Washington, who represents people on death row at the Center for Death Penalty Litigation.… Read More

Charles Finch is 10th innocent man freed after being sentenced to death in North Carolina

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Charles Ray Finch was released from prison last week, 43 years after being sentenced to death for a crime he didn’t commit. His family cheered and thanked God as he emerged from the prison gates, and at Finch’s request, they all went for barbecue. Exonerations always have a celebratory feel of justice finally being served. But don’t mistake Finch’s case for justice, or for anything other than a tragedy.… Read More

On this Day: Racial Justice Act Exposes Racial Bias; Then Is Repealed

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On April 20, 2012, Cumberland County Judge Gregory Weeks issued the first decision under North Carolina’s Racial Justice Act, ruling that racial bias had played a role in Marcus Robinson’s 1991 trial and commuting Mr. Robinson’s death sentence to life imprisonment without parole. Marcus Robinson, an African American man who was eighteen at the time of the crime, was sentenced to death in Cumberland County for the murder of a white person. North Carolina’s Racial Justice Act (RJA), which was narrowly adopted in 2009, authorized relief for death row defendants who could prove that race was a “significant factor” in jury selection, prosecutorial charging decisions, or the imposition of the death penalty.… Read More

After hate-filled murders in N.C., choosing a legacy of love and light over the darkness of the death penalty

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The families of Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha, and Razan Abu-Salha lost their children in a terrible and senseless crime that terrorized the entire Muslim community. Still, they have chosen the path of light and love. They opened a community center for young Muslim people in a house that Barakat once owned. They started an annual interfaith food drive in the victims’ honor. And this week they supported the Durham DA’s decision not to pursue the death penalty at their killer’s trial.… Read More

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the more you know about a defendant, the less likely you are to support his or her execution; the more you know about the criminal justice system, the less likely you are to support anyone's execution