Judge Erwin Spainhour ruled on Jan. 25th that four prisoners in 2012 who were granted relief based on the Racial Justice Act could no longer use the RJA to appeal their re-sentencing from life to death. Judge Spainhour’s decision will be appealed.
The RJA was passed in 2009 and in 2012, Judge Greg Weeks found that racial bias played an unconstitutional role in jury selection. There is overwhelming evidence of racial bias in jury selection in 173 capital trials during a 20 year period. That evidence served as the foundation for Judge Weeks’ decision and is as strong as ever. Four prisoners were re-sentenced to life as part of the decision.
The RJA was repealed in 2013 by the Republican legislature in a vote along party lines.
In Decemeber 2015, the NC Supreme Court sent the case back to Superior Court to give prosecutors more time to present their statistical evidence. At that point, the four defendants were again placed on death row and they are currently appealing that decision.
On Jan. 25th, Judge Spainhour sided with prosecutors and ruled Judge Weeks’ decision on the Racial Justice Act was not final since appeals had not been exhausted. As a result, the RJA can not be used as a basis for appeals now. No additional statistical information was prepared or presented by prosecutors and Judge Spainhour made NO ruling on the merits of the evidence.
Appeals will continue according to Ken Rose, attorney for Golphin, and we hope that higher courts will ultimately recognize the overwhelming evidence of unconstitutional racial bias in jury selection.
According to a Jan. 27, 2017 editorial in the Fayetteville Observer, “Any objective observer at the only case ever heard under that act (RJA) would have concluded there was indeed racial bias there. Repealing the act was a horrible victory for bias in our legal system and a shameful day for the General Assembly.” We agree.