FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — Race was a significant factor in the death sentences given to two black men and one American Indian woman convicted of murder who are trying to have their sentences reduced under the Racial Justice Act, a defense attorney said Monday in Cumberland County court.
The prosecutors argued that the jury selections had no racial bias and that a lead prosecutor from the time led anti-racism training during his service in the Air Force.
Regardless of changes that weakened the act, the statistics are "still powerful, still persuasive (and) still overwhelming," said defense attorney James Ferguson. "We don't have statistics alone. We have history. We have anecdotes. We have the record of the trial. We have the showing of the implicit bias."
The inmates are Tilmon Golphin, 34, who killed a state trooper and a Cumberland County sheriff's deputy; Quintel Augustine, 34, who killed a Fayetteville police officer; and Christina Walters, 33, who killed two women in a gang-initiation ritual in Fayetteville.
Cumberland County Prosecutor Rob Thompson argued that the jury selections had no racial bias and that a lead prosecutor from the time, Cal Colyer, had led anti-racism training during his service in the Air Force.
Statistics show that whites are sentenced to death at twice the rate as blacks, Thompson said.
"Where is the righteous indignation there?" he said.
This week's hearing marks the second test of the Racial Justice Act, which lawmakers heavily revised this session. Earlier this year, Marcus Reymond Robinson became the first prisoner removed from death row under the law.
The landmark 2009 law allowed death row prisoners to use statistics to show that racial bias influenced their sentences, but the Republican-led General Assembly overrode Gov. Beverly Perdue's veto this summer to roll back much of the law.
Statistics alone are no longer enough to have a death sentence commuted, and prisoners must also introduce evidence pertinent to their cases.