Death Row Pro Bono Case Featured in The Assembly



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May 13, 2024

Robinson Bradshaw attorney Julian Wright has served as pro bono counsel in the post-conviction representation of a North Carolina death row inmate, Frank Chambers, since 2002. After securing an order vacating Chambers’ death sentence in 2021 following the Fourth Circuit’s finding of juror misconduct in the 1994 trial, Wright is now litigating a Batson claim of racially biased jury selection.

The Assembly recently wrote about the history of Batson claims in North Carolina, so called for the 1986 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Batson v. Kentucky that prohibits the use of race in jury selection. According to the publication, Chambers is aiming to secure only the second North Carolina Supreme Court decision overturning a conviction on a Batson violation since 1986.

“The Batson claim in this case may well be the strongest this Court will ever see,” Wright and co-counsel Gretchen Engel wrote in their petition.

The Assembly explains that Wright and Engel “found prosecution notes identifying Black potential jurors by both their race and gender, noting whether they opposed the death penalty, mentioning their hairstyles, and providing false information about criminal activity at an historically Black university where one worked.” The publication states that the government has requested an extension to respond.

The Assembly’s coverage can be found here.

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