Cumberland County judge to request change in case involving 4 death row inmates

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) – A Cumberland County judge will request another judge preside over a case involving four death row inmates.

In 2012, now retired Superior Court Judge Greg Weeks commuted the sentences of Marcus Robinson, Tilmon Golphin, Quintel Augustine, and Christina Walters in 2012 under a now-repealed law called the “Racial Justice Act.”

The four were convicted of murder back in the 1990s and appealed the death sentence using the Racial Justice Act in 2009.

Three of them are at Central Prison in Raleigh serving out life sentences since 2012, when they were taken off death row.

The North Carolina State Supreme Court threw out that decision in December because they said a judge didn’t give prosecutors enough time to review a study that found African-Americans were intentionally left off the jury in death penalty trials.

The Racial Justice Act allowed a prisoner to get a life sentence instead of a death sentence if racism could be proven to be a factor at the original trial. The state legislature has since repealed all parts of the act.

At Thursday’s hearing, defense attorneys requested Cumberland County Senior Superior Court Judge Jim Ammons recuse himself from the case.

Attorneys accused Ammons of racial bias in the past.

“Judge Ammons would have been a witness to any proceedings going forward, and it would help matters to have a judge whose never been a prosecutor in Cumberland County to hear these cases,” said attorney Jay Ferguson.

The hearing lasted for nearly three hours.

Ammons denied the defense attorney’s motion for recusal but said due to the continued burden of uncertainty and toll of time for all parties involved, he would request that another judge preside over the case.

“I will not allow my properly presiding over any of these cases to continue to be an issue, when the courts true task should be determining the merits of these claims,” Ammons said.

Shirley Buris’ son Marcus Robinson was convicted of murdering a teenager in 1991.

She said her son does not deserve to die.

“I don’t think it’s right to judge people but I think it’s best for everyone involved,” Buris said.

On the other hand, Al Lowry said justice is way overdue.

His brother, Ed, was a Highway Patrolman when he was murdered by two brothers, Kevin and Tilmon Goplin, in 1997.

“It doesn’t matter what judge is going to be picked, they’re always going to find an excuse that something was not done right,” Lowry said.

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