CUMBERLAND COUNTY, N.C. — The defense called a rebuttal witness to the stand in a Racial Justice Act hearing in Cumberland County Wednesday.
Tilmon Golphin, Quintel Augustine, and Christina Walters say race played a role in their sentencing and are trying to get their death sentences converted to life in prison without parole. Civil rights activist and defense attorney, Bryan Stevenson, was called as an expert in race in the law by the defense.
Stevenson told the court Wednesday that there are several factors that led to racial bias and discrimination in jury selection in the defendants' cases; including that two of the cases involved white victims and black defendants as well as law enforcement officers.
"The Supreme Court has recognized in several cases that interracial crimes create a greater risk or racial bias and discrimination," said Stevenson.
The defense attorney also asked Stevenson to discuss the population in comparison to race for Cumberland, Brunswick, and Johnston counties. Jury members for the Golphin case were chosen out of Johnston County where the defense said had a 78 percent white population at the time of the trial.
"You are actually increasing the likelihood of a less diverse jury and you are making the strike process a much more critical process if the goal is having an inclusive jury, it will take fewer strikes to exclude all of the African-Americans," said Stevenson.
However prosecutors questioned Stevenson's expertise, saying he did not speak with any prosecutors or judges about their decisions to strike or keep jurors in any of these three trials. He simply read the transcripts and documents provided to him.
"Again, my interest in evaluating the evidence in these cases was to look at the evidence. These cases were tried over 10 years ago. I am looking at the contemporaneous evidence, I want to know what was said, what was done, look at the context, look at the patterns, I don't think I would have benefited a lot from conversations," said Stevenson.
Closing arguments are expected to take place Thursday morning.