A man who has been on death row in North Carolina for more than 17 years for kidnapping and killing a teenager is seeking to have his sentence reduced because he says racial bias affected his sentencing.
According to the Charlotte News & Observer, Marcus Raymond Robinson, who was convicted in 1994 of kidnapping and killing of 17-year-old Erik Tornblom, is arguing that the race of the jurors contributed to his being sentenced to death. Along with an accomplice, Robinson kidnapped Tornblom, shot him in the face and took his car and $27. Both Robinson and his accomplice are black. Tornblom was white.
The Fayetteville Observer said that prosecutors in the case were trying to delay the hearing on Robinson's case for eight weeks to collect more information on reasons blacks were not selected to serve as jurors on capital cases, but the judge said the hearing would move forward. Under the racial justice act, a felon sentenced to die could have their sentence converted to life in prison if they can prove that racial bias played a role in the jury selection process or at trial.
The state's racial justice act passed in 2009, and was meant to curb racial disparities in capital sentencing in North Carolina. Death penalty proponents have long argued that blacks are more likely to be sentenced to death for murder than whites. The act has been controversial since its introduction, and last December, Gov. Berverly Perdue vetoed a bill that would have repealed the law.
Robinson was slated to be executed on January 26, 2007, but all executions in the state were postponed over a fight over the role of doctors in the administering of lethal injections.