Robert Bacon, Jr.'s Clemency Letter -- CLEMENCY GRANTED

Clemency Granted: Life in Prison Without the Possibility of Parole

Honorable Michael F. Easley
Office of the Governor
20300 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-0300

Re: Robert Bacon, Jr.

Dear Governor Easley:

On behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union, we urge you to stay the execution of Robert Bacon, Jr. and to commute his death sentence to life imprisonment without parole. As demonstrated below, the egregious racial bias and a general failure of the system of justice to deliver a fair sentence merit this extraordinary relief.

Mr. Bacon committed the crime with his then-girlfriend Bonnie Clark. Like Mr. Bacon, Bonnie Clark was convicted of a first degree murder of her husband Glennie Clark. Unlike Mr. Bacon, however, Ms. Clark was sentenced to life in prison. Mr. Bacon is black; both the victim and Ms. Clark are white.

The jury found that Ms. Clark dominated Mr. Bacon and masterminded the crime, as a result of which she was rid of an abusive husband and, in addition, expected to receive $130,000 in life insurance proceeds. At Ms. Clark's trial, the State also argued that Mr. Bacon was "only a pawn" of Ms. Clark. At Mr. Bacon's trial, the State took a diametrically opposite position and argued that a death sentence was appropriate for Mr. Bacon because he was the "leader and organizer" of the crime. This inconsistency in the State's position regarding critical matters of fact was unethical and denied Mr. Bacon due process.

While Ms. Clark's jury heard evidence of her husband's history of alcoholism and physical abuse of her and their children, Mr. Bacon's jury did not get to hear that evidence, nor did it get to hear about Mr. Bacon's background which, in the words of a Fourth Circuit judge, "uniquely mirrors the circumstances surrounding the crime."

Highlighting the obvious disparity between the treatment of a white and a black defendant in this case is also the fact that the State methodically excluded all prospective black jurors in a county that is 20% African American. The jurors who were selected made racial jokes during the trial and later admitted that they held against Mr. Bacon the fact that he was dating a white woman.

When he was first questioned by the police, Mr. Bacon promptly confessed that he stabbed the victim and showed the police incriminating physical evidence. It was thanks to Mr. Bacon's confession that the police realized that Ms. Clark, the chief perpetrator, was involved in the crime. The jury that sentenced Mr. Bacon to death did not know that his cooperation with the police led to Bonnie Clark's arrest, even though aiding in the apprehension of another capital felon is one of only eight statutory mitigating factors specified by the General Assembly for capital cases.

Even though the Supreme Court of North Carolina vacated Mr. Bacon's death sentence so that a new jury would hear mitigating evidence, on re-sentencing, trial counsel conducted no new investigation (which would have revealed some of the information described above) and failed to present the very evidence that the Supreme Court had ruled should have been admitted. Despite these omissions, the re-sentencing jury deliberated nearly six hours before sentencing Mr. Bacon.

Thus, as a result of numerous errors on the part of the defense counsel and the State, and now that Mr. Bacon has exhausted all procedural opportunities for reduction of his sentence, the State is about to execute a man whose sentence would have likely been different had he been awarded all the protections intended by the system of justice and received by some. The only thing that can remedy this injustice is an act of grace and mercy with which the Governor is empowered.

The racial bias of the sentence in this case further highlights the incredibly disturbing trend in North Carolina's delivery of the most severe form of punishment which suggests, based on statistical averages, that Mr. Bacon would have been half as likely to be sentenced to death if he were white and four times less likely if his victim were black. Although the ACLU opposes capital punishment in all cases as a barbarous anachronism and in violation of the Constitution, we are ever more convinced that the sentence in this case is unfair and urge you to grant clemency in this case.

Sincerely,

Diann Rust-Tierney
ACLU Capital Punishment Project

Deborah Ross
ACLU of North Carolina

Vladimir Kouznetsov
Pro Bono Counsel
Squire, Sanders & Dempsey, L.L.P.

Stay Informed