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USA (North Carolina): Death penalty / Legal concern, Robert Bacon

, رقم الوثيقة: AMR 51/130/2001

Robert Bacon is scheduled to be executed in North Carolina on 21 September 2001. He was sentenced to death for the 1987 murder of Glennie Clark.

PUBLIC AI Index: AMR 51/130/2001
EXTRA 59/01 Death penalty / Legal concern 31 August 2001
USA (North Carolina) Robert Bacon, black, aged 41
Robert Bacon is scheduled to be executed in North Carolina on 21 September
2001. He was sentenced to death for the 1987 murder of Glennie Clark.
Glennie Clark, white, was the estranged husband of Bonnie Clark, also white.
She left him after he became alcoholic and physically abusive towards her and
their two children. However, he continued to harass her. She began a relationship
with Robert Bacon, and, on her repeated suggestion, they agreed to kill Glennie
Clark. On the first attempt to carry out the plan, Bacon refused at the last
minute. The next night, they drove to Glennie Clark’s house. Clark reacted
angrily when he saw the couple together and a heated discussion ensued about
the relationship. At some point, Glennie Clark called Bacon a “nigger”, and
Bacon stabbed him.
The sole aggravating factor in the murder making it punishable by the death
penalty was that it was committed for pecuniary gain; Bonnie Clark stood to
receive $130,000 in life insurance. She was convicted of first-degree murder
and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Robert Bacon was sentenced to death by an all-white jury in 1987. In 1990,
the state Supreme Court overturned the sentence. At a 1991 resentencing, Bacon
was again condemned by an all-white jury, in a county whose population was
about 20 per cent African American. Before Bacon’s 1987 trial, his lawyer had
unsuccessfully sought to prohibit the state from dismissing African Americans
from the jury, citing the prosecutor’s “pattern of discrimination” in capital
jury selections.
Bacon’s appeal lawyer interviewed jurors from the 1991 sentencing and an
alternate juror from 1987. In an affidavit, she stated that two of the 1991
jurors said that during their deliberations, reference was made to Bacon’s
race and his involvement in an interracial relationship. The alternate juror
recalled jurors making racial “jokes” during the 1987 trial.
In May 2001, one of the jurors from the 1991 resentencing came forward to sign
an affidavit supporting clemency. She recalls that “some jurors felt that it
was wrong for a black man to date a white woman. Jurors also felt that black
people commit more crime and that it is typical of blacks to be involved in
crime... some jurors were adamant in their feeling that Bacon was a black man
and “he deserved what he got””.
The 1991 jury found in mitigation that Bacon had acted under the domination
of Bonnie Clark, had no history of violent behaviour and was unlikely to commit
another violent crime, that he was remorseful, and that his co-defendant was
serving a life sentence. They still voted for death. The juror’s affidavit
quoted above recalls that during deliberations, the jury was initially 10-2
for death. The two who favoured a life sentence switched their votes to death
after the majority “complained that this should be an easy decision and that
we were taking too long. The other jurors emphasized that Bacon had received
the death penalty the first time, a fact we knew because Bacon’s attorney had
told it to us in closing argument” (if a prosecutor had done the same thing,
North Carolina case law suggests that it would have led to a new sentencing).
2
In 1998, a federal district judge ruled that Robert Bacon should receive a
new sentencing hearing because his lawyer had failed to present important
mitigating evidence. This was that Bacon had an alcoholic father who engaged
in numerous adulterous affairs. From when he was very young, Bacon’s mother
sought his advice and assistance on this adultery, including having the boy
eavesdrop on his father’s phone calls. He also witnessed various incidents
in which his father physically abused his mother.
The Fourth Circuit Court reinstated the death sentence, saying that this
evidence would not have altered the outcome. One of the three judges dissented,
saying that the evidence “would support the proposition that Bacon’s family
history uniquely mirrors the circumstances surrounding the crime for which
Bacon now faces the death penalty; in both instances (in his family and in
his relationship with Clark), a woman was apparently subjected to abuse by
her husband; Bacon served as confidant to the woman, and Bacon was manipulated
to take steps he otherwise would not have taken”. Two state Supreme Court judges
have also dissented in the case, saying that in comparison with other cases
and Bonnie Clark’s life sentence, Bacon’s death sentence was disproportionate.
This case was first issued as UA 97/01 (AMR 51/056/2001, 12 April). Robert
Bacon was 12 hours from execution in May when the North Carolina Supreme Court
issued a stay so that it could consider the claim that Governor Easley could
not act as an impartial arbiter of clemency petitions, given his previous roles
as state Attorney General and a local District Attorney. On 2 August, the Court
rejected the claim. Two men have been executed since then, two of 19 prisoners
put to death in North Carolina and 731 executed nationally since the USA resumed
judicial killing in 1977.
Bacon’s lawyers have filed a petition with the Inter-American Commission on
Human Rights, which has scheduled a hearing on the case for 28 September, and
called for the execution to be stayed. The USA, continuing to take a position
that undermines the international community’s efforts to protect fundamental
human rights, has replied that it views the IACHR’s call for a stay as a
non-binding recommendation.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send faxes/express/airmail letters, in your own
words, in English or your own language:
- explaining that you do not condone the manner of Glennie Clark’s death and
expressing sympathy for his relatives;
- expressing deep concern at the allegations of racial discrimination that
have marked this case;
- noting that two state Supreme Court judges have stated that Bacon’s death
sentence is disproportionate when compared to others and his co-defendant’s
sentence, and that two federal judges have ruled that evidence of Bacon’s
background not heard by the jury should require a new sentencing hearing;
- pointing out that the power of executive clemency exists to compensate for
the rigidity of the courts, to remedy unfairness and error;
- noting that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has called for
a stay of execution in order that it can consider Bacon’s petition;
- calling on the governor to commute Robert Bacon’s death sentence in the name
of fairness and the reputation of his state and country.
APPEALS TO:
Governor Michael F. Easley
Office of the Governor
3
20301 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-0301, USA
Fax: + 1 919 715 3175 or + 1 919 733 2120
Salutation: Dear Governor
COPIES TO: diplomatic representatives of USA accredited to your country.
You may also write, in not more than 250 words) to “Letters to the Editor”:
- Raleigh News and Observer, PO Box 191, Raleigh, NC 27602, USA. Fax: + 1
919-829-4872. E-mail: forum@nando.com
- Charlotte Observer, PO Box 20848, Charlotte, NC 28230, USA. Fax: + 1 704
377 6214. E-mail: opinion@charlotteobserver.com
- Jacksonville News, PO Box 196, Jacksonville, NC28541, USA. Fax: +1 910 353
7316. E-mail: letters@jdnews.com
- Winston-Salem Journal, PO Box 3159, Winston-Salem, N.C. 27102, USA. Fax:
+1 336 727 7402. E-mail: letters@wsjournal.com
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY.

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