Landmark Racial Justice Act (RJA) Case Nears Conclusion, Offering Hope to North Carolina’s Death Row Inmates

Racial Justice Act NC

Landmark Racial Justice Act (RJA) Case Nears Conclusion, Offering Hope to North Carolina’s Death Row Inmates

A latest news update from criminal defense lawyer in North Carolina on RJA case. A Racial Justice Act case involving a man sentenced to death in 2009 is nearing its conclusion, following the latest hearing in March 2024. This case brings renewed hope to approximately 120 individuals on North Carolina’s death row, giving them the chance to have their death sentences reconsidered and potentially converted to life imprisonment.

Racial Justice Act Appeals and Landmark Case of Hasson Bacote

These 120 individuals have filed appeals under the Racial Justice Act (RJA). Enacted in 2009, the RJA allowed individuals sentenced to death to seek resentencing to life imprisonment without parole if they could demonstrate that racial bias influenced their sentencing or jury selection. Although the law was repealed in 2013, more than 120 inmates had already applied for relief under its provisions, and they now await their opportunity for resentencing.

The focal point of this landmark case is Mr. Hasson Bacote, who was just 21 years old when he was sentenced to death in a Johnston County courtroom in April 2009 for First Degree murder. Mr. Bacote contends that racial discrimination played a significant role in both his sentencing and jury selection. His case highlights systemic issues in North Carolina’s capital punishment framework, marking the first instance in the state where a trial court mandated the disclosure of prosecution notes from jury selection in all capital trials.

Legal Team’s Extensive Evidence and Arguments in Bacote Case

Mr. Bacote’s legal team, which includes the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) Capital Punishment Project, the Center for Death Penalty Litigation (CDPL), and the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund, has compiled a substantial body of evidence. They have amassed 680,000 documents related to capital punishment since 1980, including court transcripts and handwritten notes from jury selection in 70 counties. The data reveals that potential Black jurors in Johnston County were four times more likely to be excluded from jury pools and ten times more likely to be removed by a specific former District Attorney, who prosecuted Mr. Bacote’s case.

The legal team argues that racial bias has historically excluded people of color from serving on capital juries, resulting in disproportionately severe sentences for Black men, including Mr. Bacote. To support their case, they have enlisted historians, a statistician, and a social psychologist to discuss how implicit racial biases can be measured and how these biases influence several aspects of the judicial process, including jury selection.

Mr. Bacote’s case not only represents a significant legal battle but also sheds light on the effects of racial discrimination within the judicial system. It serves as a reminder of the importance of pursuing justice without prejudice, ensuring that everyone receives a fair trial regardless of race.

As the court prepares to deliver its final verdict, the outcome of this case could set a precedent for the remaining individuals on death row in North Carolina, offering them a renewed chance at justice and potentially transforming the landscape of capital punishment in the state.


If your loved one has been accused of First Degree murder, it is of utmost importance to hire a skilled murder defense attorney. Patrick Roberts Law provides sound legal advice to individuals battling the harsh penalties of murder charges. Call 919-341-1433 immediately. Same day and evening appointments are available.


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