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Court Overturns Death Sentence in N.C.

February 6, 2003

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) _ A federal appeals court Wednesday overturned the death sentence of a black man convicted of killing a white trooper, saying prosecutors tried to keep blacks off the jury.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sent the case of Timothy Allen back to district court, which could either hear the race claim or order a new trial.

Allen was convicted by a jury of six whites and six blacks in the 1985 shooting death of Trooper Raymond Worley during a traffic stop on Interstate 95 near Enfield in northeastern North Carolina.

The appeals court, based in Richmond, Va., said statistical and circumstantial evidence showed prosecutors used peremptory challenges to reject 11 of 13 prospective black jurors. A peremptory challenge is a legal objection that allows lawyers to dismiss a prospective juror without having to give a reason.

``The best and most direct evidence (of Allen’s challenge) is evidence of whom the government chose to strike, because that is something over which the prosecutor has complete and undiluted control,″ the three-judge panel wrote.

The state attorney general’s office was reviewing the court’s decision, spokesman John Bason said.

One of Allen’s attorney’s, John Rittelmeyer, said: ``We are just gratified that a court has finally recognized that there was error of a constitutional dimension that occurred in this case,″ he said.


On the Net:

4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals: http://www.ca4.uscourts.gov

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