Imagine turning your car radio on and hearing that your loved ones’ convicted murderer will now have his case heard by the North Carolina Supreme Court.
Friday afternoon some victims’ families learned they would be going to yet another court for their love one’s murderer. Three cases were heard in late 2012 under an appeal of the Racial Justice Act and the murderers’ sentences were converted from death to life without parole. When the Supreme Court hears the cases in the coming months to review the new life without parole sentences, the loved ones hope the original sentence of death will be reinstated.
WRAL said Friday that the North Carolina Supreme Court would review the RJA cases heard by Cumberland County Superior Court Judge Gregory Weeks in late 2012.
Weeks ruled last December that race had played unjust roles in jury selection in the Christine Walters, Tilmon Golphin, and Quintel Augustine trials. Walters is a Lumbee Indian convicted in gang-related murders in 1998. Augustine was convicted of killing a Fayetteville police officer in 2001, while Golphin killed a Highway Patrol trooper and Cumberland County sheriff’s deputy in 1997. They are both black. All three were originally sentenced to death, but in appeals made under the guidelines of the Racial Justice Act, the three had their sentences changed to life without parole.
The Racial Justice Act was originally enacted in 2009, but in July 2012 the legislature made some crucial changes to the law. The General Assembly then fully repealed the law in June 2013, and GOP Gov. Pat McCrory signed the bill doing so. Nearly all of North Carolina’s more than 150 death-row prisoners had filed appeals using the original Racial Justice Act, including white defendants convicted of killing white victims. Prosecutors say the original law was extending further death row appeals. Critics of the repeal have said the law was succeeding at rooting out racial discrimination among prosecutors in jury selections for capital trials. There has been no report of what is happening to the rest of the RJA appeals that have not been heard.
In August it was reported that Marcus Robinson’s case would be heard by the North Carolina Supreme Court as well. Robinson became the first person removed from death row using the law following a similar ruling by Weeks in April 2012. Oral arguments are expected before the justices in the next few months
The families that have been affected by the Racial Justice Act pray the next news they hear is that the murderers are back on Death Row.