While much is written on the murderers and their allies who are using North Carolina’s Racial Justice Act (RJA) to try and get themselves off of death row, we seldom hear about the victims. Here’s one.
The first victim of the RJA was Erik Tornblom, a 17-year-old from Fayetteville. In 1991, the high school senior was returning home from a job at a restaurant when he gave Marcus Robinson and an accomplice a ride. What Tornbloom didn’t know was that earlier that day Robinson had picked up a sawed-off shotgun from a friend.
The pair responded to Tornblom’s kindness by kidnapping him and stealing his car and the $27 in his wallet. As Tornbloom lay in a field begging for mercy, Robinson killed him with a shotgun blast to the face.
The judge who freed Robinson from Death Row, Gregory A. Weeks, said his crime was “unspeakably horrendous.” The RJA freed this murderer not because there was any doubt about his guilt, or even of anything specific to his trial, but because of statistics that purport to show statewide racial bias in the selection of juries over the decades.
What we are left with is a convicted murderer who will live out his natural life, and an innocent boy of 17 who was gunned down before he could live his. Now Erik Tornblom and his family have been victimized twice — once by the murderer and a second time by the state of North Carolina. We should not forget the victims, especially at a time when all of the publicity is going to the murderer.
As for Robinson, he supposedly is now imprisoned for life. Yet a question lingers: How can the state impose a new sentence on a convict after the trial? Robinson beat one punishment; can he dodge another?
And his story isn’t the end of it. According to news reports, almost all of the 157 prisoners on North Carolina’s death row have filed appeals under the RJA.