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N.C. governor commutes sentence of death-row inmate to life

RALEIGH, North Carolina (CNN) -- Gov. Mike Easley has granted clemency to a death-row inmate who had claimed his sentence was imposed by a racist jury.

Easley made his decision late Tuesday night, announcing in a statement that Robert Bacon Jr.'s sentence had been commuted to life without parole.

Easley commended the state's prosecutors and judges, but said his "review of this matter in its totality causes me to conclude that the appropriate sentence for the defendant is life without parole." His office offered no further explanation for the decision.

Bacon had been scheduled to be executed Friday at 2 a.m. in North Carolina. An all-white jury sentenced him to death for the 1987 murder of Glennie Clark, the husband of his former lover, Bonnie Clark.

In May 2000, one juror filed an affidavit asserting the jury had been improperly influenced by racial prejudice, and had sentenced Bacon to death because he was black and had been dating a white woman.

Clark, who is white, was sentenced to life in prison for her role in the murder.

Bacon's case had garnered support from state lawmakers, celebrities, local newspapers and from numerous civil rights groups, including Amnesty International and the National Urban League.

The U.S. Supreme Court had rejected Bacon's application to stay his execution earlier this month, leaving his pending clemency petition with Easley as his only remaining legal alternative. Easley stayed the execution in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, but had rescheduled the execution for October 5.



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