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Petitions Filed Under North Carolina’s Racial Justice Act

Last Update: December 17, 2012

What's at Stake

On August 3, 2010, five North Carolina death row inmates filed claims under their state’s landmark legislation, the Racial Justice Act. The law, which passed in August 2009, requires that courts enter a life sentence for any death row defendant who proves that race was a factor in the imposition of his or her death sentence.

North Carolina’s handling of the cases will be watched closely around the country, as it is the first state to undertake a comprehensive effort to sever the historical ties between race and the death penalty.

One of the inmates, Kenneth Rouse, was sentenced to death by all white jury, which included a juror who later admitted that racial bigotry was an important factor in jury deliberation, and who said that “blacks do not care about living as much as whites do.”

In another case, death row inmate Guy LeGrande was also sentenced to death by an all-white jury after the prosecutor in his case dismissed all of the qualified African-American citizens from the jury. A witness described Mr. LeGrande at his trial as a “N—– from Wadesboro.”

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