RALEIGH N.C. (WNCN) — An upcoming murder trial in Wake County is bringing to light concerns over how jurors are picked in death-penalty cases.
The American Civil Liberties Union is pushing back against the possibility of people to be disqualified from serving on a capital jury if they are adamantly against the death penalty.
Brandon Hill is charged with murder in connection with a deadly 2016 shooting at a Raleigh motel.
The state wants him to face the death penalty.
But Brian Stull, an attorney with the ACLU, said he’s concerned about Hill’s “ability to have a fair trial.” The ACLU is not representing Hill on his criminal charges, just the motion they say to protect a fair jury selection.
Friday, a judge heard final arguments for a motion to bar the “discriminatory death qualification process” when selecting jurors.
“Death qualification means that if you’re opposed to the death penalty you can’t serve,” Stull said.
The defense argued that even if there isn’t any intent to exclude people due to their race, gender or religion, it’s seen in state cases.
They cited a study by Michigan State University finished this year of a dozen capital murder jury selections over the past decade in Wake County saying that minorities, women and those with more religious backgrounds were excluded from juries in higher rates than their counterparts.
“They’re techniques. They’re not written in the law that excludes black folk or folks of faith,” ACLU attorney Henderson Hill said. “But it’s the practice of the prosecution, it’s the practice of the court.”
But prosecutors said their jury selection is fair and that the defense pushback is more about trying to end the death penalty in the state, which should be left up to lawmakers.