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First Hearing Under Racial Justice Act: Paul Woolverton of The Fayetteville Observer (NC) reports Marcus Reymond Robinson is scheduled today to be the first condemned inmate under North Carolina's Racial Justice Act to present evidence of racism in an attempt to convert his sentence to life without parole. Robinson, who is black, was sentenced to death in 1994 for the 1991 killing of a white teenage boy. The Racial Justice Act gives death row inmates in North Carolina the opportunity to claim that their death sentences are the result of racism, and to use statistical trends as proof of racism in the system. All but seven of North Carolina's 158 death row inmates have pending Racial Justice Act claims.

Arizona Prisons Charging Fee to Visit Inmates: Erica Goode reported Monday in the NYT that the State of Arizona has enacted the first of its kind legislation that imposes a one-time $25 fee on visitors to the Arizona Department of Corrections. The fee will only be imposed on those over 18 years of age, and will help address a $150 million maintenance gap for the Arizona Department of Corrections. The Department of Corrections says the fee will serve to keep the facilities safer for visitors and inmates. Prisoner rights groups have the expected reaction -- they have filed lawsuits.

Gold Fever Sweeps the Criminal Underworld: Thomas Watkins of the AP has this so-titled piece about the surge in robberies and burglaries related to gold after the price of the precious metal peaked last month at $1,981 an ounce, an increase of more than $600 from a year earlier. Police in Oakland say dozens of women have had gold necklaces yanked from their necks on the street, and similar stories are emerging from cities nationwide. Earlier this summer, thieves in New Jersey even took off with $400,000 in gold nuggets from a mining museum display. Gold is an easy substance to fence, as jewelry can be melted down, thus destroying the evidence, and sold.

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