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Racial Justice Act Hearing Begins Today

The state's first Racial Justice Act hearing will get underway today in Cumberland County.

Jessica Jones: Judge Gregory Weeks will preside over the hearing. It's expected to last as long as two weeks. Attorneys for death row inmate Marcus Robinson will present evidence that racial bias was a factor in jury selection in his case. A high number of qualified black jurors were removed from serving on Robinson's jury. He was convicted of murdering Erik Tornblom in 1994. The hearing comes not long after district attorneys across the state almost succeeded in derailing it. They lobbied state lawmakers to pass a law that would repeal the Racial Justice Act, passed in 2009. The law allows death row inmates to appeal their sentences based on racial bias playing a role in their cases. Lawmakers passed the repeal measure, but Governor Perdue vetoed it in December. North Carolina is one of two states in the country that has a Racial Justice Act.

Jessica Jones covers both the legislature in Raleigh and politics across the state. Before her current assignment, Jessica was given the responsibility to open up WUNC's first Greensboro Bureau at the Triad Stage in 2009. She's a seasoned public radio reporter who's covered everything from education to immigration, and she's a regular contributor to NPR's news programs. Jessica started her career in journalism in Egypt, where she freelanced for international print and radio outlets. After stints in Washington, D.C. with Voice of America and NPR, Jessica joined the staff of WUNC in 1999. She is a graduate of Yale University.
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