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A retired statistics professor testified in the ongoing Racial Justice Act hearing Wednesday that a study indicating racial bias in North Carolina’s capital murder trials is sound.

The study, from the Michigan State University’s law school, says statistics show that between 1990 and 2010 in North Carolina, prosecutors in capital murder trials were far more likely to peremptorily dismiss black potential jurors than other jurors. This study is at the heart of convicted murderer Marcus Reymond Robinson’s effort to get his death sentence commuted to life in prison without parole for the 1991 robbery and murder of Erik Tornblom.

It is illegal to dismiss a potential juror because of his race. Robinson’s lawyers contend it happened regardless. The Racial Justice Act of 2009 permits death-row inmates to use statistics to try to prove their cases.

Robinson’s claim is the first in the state to get this far in the court system. He is black; Tornblom was white. Robinson’s jury was made up of nine whites, two blacks and an American Indian.

Emotion absent from first week of Racial Justice Act hearing in Fayetteville

The statistics expert is retired professor George Woodworth of the University of Iowa. He has conducted other studies on race in the criminal justice system, the causes of antisocial behavior and on medical issues.

Woodworth, testifying on behalf of Robinson, said he briefly advised Michigan State researcher Barbara O’Brien when she asked for his thoughts on how to evaluate her data. O’Brien testified Monday and Tuesday about her study.

Follow Paul Woolverton’s daily documentation of the trial in the Fay Observer

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