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FAYETTEVILLE, NC (AP) – A Tufts University professor is testifying in the first evidentiary hearing involving North Carolina’s Racial Justice Act about what he calls unconscious or implicit racism.

The Fayetteville Observer reported that social psychologist Sam Sommers testified Thursday that studies indicated that race influences many decisions about how people interact with others. He says people often aren’t aware of the influence.

Sommers testified in the hearing involving Marcus Robinson, a black man convicted in 1994 of killing a white teenager. He hopes to have his death sentence changed to life in prison without parole.

The hearing in Cumberland County focuses on whether prosecutors illegally excluded black jurors from serving on Robinson’s trial and in capital trials in general in Cumberland County and statewide.

Prosecutor Rob Thompson began cross-examining Sommers later Thursday.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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