Racism will be put on trial in NC for death penalty case

The death penalty is a long and torturous process that I would call cruel and unusual punishment. An inmate is sentenced to death, but often waits on “death row” for decades as he appeals his sentence. The constant threat of imminent death, I would assume, is daunting and a burden to carry for all those years. Granted, I understand that most on death row have committed heinous crimes, like cold-blooded murder. Still, I believe they still deserve humane treatment while incarcerated. And waiting decades on death row is not humane.

photo from Amnesty International

On top of that, the death penalty is carried out with discrimination. When the victim is white, the defendant is several times more likely to receive the death penalty than if the victim was of color, according to the ACLU and Amnesty International.

The disproportion between the number of defendants on death row who have killed whites versus those on death row for killing a minority race is alarming- whether we want to admit it or not. Racism is imbedded into society and our institutions. It has become so much apart of everyday life that we often mistake it for something else or do not see it all together.

This (unintentional) racism with the death penalty is about to stand trial in North Carolina.

According to BBC, Marcus Reymond Robinson, who was convicted of murdering Erik Tornblom in 1991 and sentenced to death, has appealed his death sentence using North Carolina’s Racial Justice Act in the hope that he can get his sentenced changed to life in prison without parole.

The Racial Justice Act was a law passed in North Carolina that allows death row inmates who are appealing their sentence to present evidence of racial bias in the courtroom.

According to BBC’s article, “under North Carolina’s RJA, Defendants are eligible for a life sentence without parole if they can show that they were more likely to receive the death penalty because of their race or the race of their victims.” They can use statistical evidence, not just evidence relating to their case, in order to prove that a racial bias existed.

This task is not easy. Proving that a courtroom intentionally had a racial bias when deciding the death penalty is not easy. And getting a judge to see that this occurred is not easy- even though the facts are starring everyone in the face.


About Haley Behre

I graduated from Syracuse University in December 2011 with majors in newspaper journalism and women and gender studies. Using these majors, I aspire to become a journalist who writes about human rights issues. I have held internships at the Syracuse New Times, Dash Media PR Firm, Syracuse Post-Standard and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. I also had an internship at the Not For Sale Campaign Syracuse chapter, which is a non-profit organization dedicated to eradicating human trafficking. I was born in Seoul, Korea on September 30, 1990 and moved to the United States before I was one year old. When I was 8, my family and I moved to Norwich, England for three years. While I was here I was immersed into a new culture and got to experience many things other children my age do not get to. Over the three years, I visited Ireland, France and the Netherlands several times, and Belgium, Wales and Sweden once. In the winter of 2010, I got an amazing opportunity to visit Kenya for a month. This was by far the single most eye-opening experience of my life thus far. The natural beauty of the landscape and its people do not compare to anything I have seen. I currently intern for the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press in the hopes of getting a full-time job at a newspaper or non-profit after.
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