Updated 10/02/2012 09:09 PM
Convicted killers work to lower sentences under Racial Justice Act
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CUMBERLAND COUNTY, N.C. — Three convicted killers continue to try and get their death sentence converted to life in prison without parole.
Tilmon Golphin, Quintel Augustine, and Christina Walters say race played a role in their sentencing. Golphin was convicted of killing a state trooper and sheriff's deputy, Augustine was convicted of killing a Fayetteville police officer, and Walters was convicted of killing two women during a gang initiation ritual.
Augustine, is the only defendant in this hearing who has chosen to sit on the proceedings. Augustine is one of three convicted killers trying to get their death sentence reduced under the Racial Justice Act. Attorneys for the three say race played a significant factor in jury selection in their trials as well as in the decision to place them on death row.
The defense called Barbara O'Brien to the stand Tuesday. O'Brien is a professor at Michigan State University and preformed a study on jury selection within Cumberland county and state wide.
"Looking at this disparity in light of the magnitude of it, and consistency with the other cases that I looked at and the magnitude of the disparity, I am very confident that it is not due to chance." said professor at the College of law at Michigan State University Barbara O'Brien.
O'Brien said Tuesday, in the cases of Augustine, Walters, and Golphin, her study shows intentional discrimination for black jurors.
"Twice as many eligible black jurors were struck compared to non black eligible jurors." said O'Brien.
O'Brien's findings were also used in the case of Marcus Robinson in April. But, now the rules behind a Racial Justice hearing have changed a bit. Now her study must focus on a specific time period. O'Brien told the court Tuesday her study has been revised.
"Mean that to be the period that was ten years prior to the commission of the offense to the day that is two years after the imposition of the death penalty." said O'Brien.
The prosecution says O'Brien's study has no merit. They say they will call several prosecutors and judges to the stand to explain why black jurors were struck from these cases as well as others. The hearings will continue Wednesday and could last as long as two weeks.