North Carolina hearing challenges 135 death sentences on alleged racial bias in jury selection

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Monday, February 26, 2024
NC hearing fights death penalty, alleged racial bias in jury selection
Hassan Bacote, a 37-year-old black man from North Carolina, is challenging his death sentence under the state's Racial Justice Act.

JOHNSTON COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- A hearing on Monday could challenge the sentences for 135 people on death row in North Carolina prisons.

The lead case is focused on 37-year-old Hassan Bacote. He's a black man who was sentenced to death in Johnston County by a majority-white jury in 2009.

Bacote's right, as well as 134 others, to challenge his sentence is a part of the Racial Justice Act.

The act was passed in 2009, where capital defendants can challenge their death sentences on the basis that race played a significant factor in decisions to seek or impose the death penalty.

During today's hearing, the court will be forced to look at whether race plays a role in jury selection in capital cases.

Bacote's legal team will show a pattern of discrimination used in jury selections in Johnston County and across the state.

Bacote was sentenced to death by a jury made up of ten white jurors and two black jurors.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), in Bacote's case, the prosecution removed black jurors three times more often than it removed white jurors.

Statewide, prosecutors removed black jurors at more than twice the rate.

Bacote's hearing is scheduled to start at 10 a.m. today and could last about two weeks.