Durham death row inmate wants death sentence commuted


Isaac Jackson Stroud was convicted of 1st degree kidnapping and murder in May 1993.

Stroud is African-American - and one of many North Carolina inmates testing a new North Carolina law that would allow them to argue racial bias played a role in their sentences.

Inmates from Wake, Davie, Forsyth, Martin, Randolph and Union counties have also filed to appeal. The deadline to file is Tuesday.

The prisoners argue that racial bias, in the form of all-white or mostly white juries, helped land them on death row. Under the terms of a 2009 state law, the Racial Justice Act, the prisoners can use statistical evidence to argue their cases.

The law allows judges to consider evidence that one racial group is being punished more harshly than members of other racial groups. Only Kentucky has an equivalent law.

Of 159 convicts on death row in North Carolina, 99 are nonwhite. The 87 black inmates make up more than half the death row population, while U.S. Census estimates put the black share of the statewide population at roughly 22 percent.

District attorneys across the state are bracing for a wave of new motions filed under the law, including some filed by white death row inmates.

"We're expecting all the people on death row to file these claims," said Peg Dorer, director of the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys in an interview earlier this month.

"The way the law is written, it's all about numbers, it's not really about color," she said. "All you've got to prove is that some number somewhere makes you stick out for some reason."

Dorer said the office of state Attorney General Roy Cooper has advised North Carolina's district attorneys to expect that all 159 inmates on death row will file motions based on the Racial Justice Act.

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