RACE: New Video Highlights Stories of Jurors Excluded from Death Penalty Cases

A new video produced by the American Civil Liberties Union features three North Carolina citizens who believe they were excluded from serving on juries in capital cases because of their race. The video was released in conjunction with the first court challenge brought under North Carolina’s Racial Justice Act. The defendant, Marcus Robinson, is asking his death sentence be commuted to life without parole because potential African-American jurors were struck from his jury at a rate 3.5 times higher than other potential jurors. Laverne Keys (pictured), who was excluded from a capital jury in 1999, believes she was removed because of her race: “It made me feel like I was back in 1960, that racism is still very much alive. It makes you wonder whether all these people are being given a fair trial or given a fair consequence so far as the death penalty,” she said in the video.  Denny LeBoeuf, Director of the ACLU Capital Punishment Project, said, “The stories presented in this video make clear that the death penalty system in North Carolina and across the nation is plagued by discrimination. The Racial Justice Act is a crucial means of ensuring that no one is wrongfully executed because of racial bias.” Watch the video.

The Racial Justice Act allows death-row prisoners a hearing in which they can present statistics and other empirical evidence showing that death sentences in the state were influenced by race. North Carolina has the nation’s sixth-largest death row population, more than half of whom are African-American. Thirty-one people on North Carolina’s death row were sentenced by all-white juries. Watch ACLU’s video.

(ACLU Press Release, "North Carolinians Struck From Capital Juries Because of Race Speak Out in Favor of Racial Justice Act," February 2, 2012).  See Race and Multimedia.