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First hearing under NC's Racial Justice Act begins

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By MARTHA WAGGONER
Associated Press

FAYETTEVILLE, NC (AP) -- A hearing involving a killer who's the first on North Carolina's death row to use a new law to try to prove that race played a role in his sentence has begun in Fayetteville.

Attorney James Ferguson's opening statement traced the history of blacks on juries in the state, ending with a 20-year study of prosecutors' use of peremptory challenges in capital cases. He says the study proves Marcus Robinson's case under the Racial Justice Act.

Robinson is using the act to try to get a sentence of life in prison without parole instead of the death penalty. He was sentenced to death in Cumberland County for the 1991 death of Erik Tornblom.

The first witness is one of the authors of the study.

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

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