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via BBC News

A convicted killer has been ordered off death row in the US state of North Carolina after a judge ruled his trial had been tainted by racial bias.

Marcus Robinson’s case was the first to be heard under North Carolina’s controversial Racial Justice Act (RJA).

The RJA stipulates that death row inmates can appeal for relief, in the form of a life sentence, if race proved a factor during trial or sentencing.

Robinson, who is black, was sentenced to die for a 1991 murder.

North Carolina Superior Court Judge Gregory Weeks found that Robinson’s case fell under the auspices of the new law.

He showed that jury selection in the case was affected, citing a study from Michigan State University (MSU) which showed that qualified black jurors were systemically excluded from jury service, both across the state and specifically in Robinson’s case.

Under the RJA, death row inmates can use statistics to prove patterns of racial bias.

In Robinson’s case, his attorneys presented the MSU study, which showed that on average, North Carolina prosecutors in death penalty cases excluded qualified black jurors at more than twice the rate of qualified non-black jurors.

For Robinson’s jury pool, qualified blacks were rejected 3.5 times more.

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