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

A death penalty as random as a lightning strike

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States like North Carolina, have spent the last 47 years writing laws that — theoretically — allow us to cleanly sort those who deserve the death penalty from those who don’t. All these years later, it’s clear we have failed. Just look at the two most recent death penalty verdicts in North Carolina, in the cases of Seaga Gillard and James Bradley. One got a death sentence and one got life, and there is no rational reason why.… Read More

In California, the moral case for ending the death penalty

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In today’s world, it’s easy to think politicians on both sides of the aisle care only about their own power and reelection chances. But every once in a while, we see an act of moral leadership that renews our faith in government. This week, it happened in California. Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that he would dismantle the death chamber and grant the state’s nearly 750 death row inmates a reprieve. They will remain incarcerated but will no longer live under the threat of execution. It was a stunning move in a state with the nation’s largest death row. North Carolina, too, should make the enlightened choice to put an official end to the death penalty. … Read More

Just like the death penalty, sentencing kids to die in prison is cruel and unusual

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In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional to sentence children to death. (Better late than never!) The decision cited research showing that human brains continue to grow and aren’t fully formed until people are in their early 20s, and that our character and ability to make reasoned decisions is still developing. Given that, it’s unbelievable that North Carolina, and 28 other states, continue to impose a punishment almost as harsh on kids — life with no possibility of parole. Think about that: Still today, a 13-year-old can be declared “irredeemable” and sent to prison with no chance of ever getting out.… 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