Onslow County district attorneys have announced that they will not seek the death penalty against Ryan Casler, who along with Dallas Matthew Bullock is accused of stabbing a friend 30 times and leaving him to die in a ditch by the side of the road. Both defendants are members of the Folk Nation gang.
There are two capital trials underway in North Carolina today, but little information is available about the progress of either case.
In Cumberland County, Mark Andrews is on trial for a 2006 shooting. Though the trial was scheduled to begin on April 9th, DW has been unable to find a media account of its progress since April 2nd.
UPDATE – Testimony has begun in the Andrews trial.
In Gaston County, Michael Ryan is on trial for a 2007 shooting. DW hasn’t seen any media reports updating the status of Ryan’s case since this one on April 20th.
Jury selection has begun in the Gaston County capital trial of Michael Patrick Ryan. Ryan is accused of the 2007 murder of David Farrar. Because the trial could take as long as two months, some jurors have been excused due to the financial hardship service might cause. Jurors are paid only $12 a day for the first five days and $30 a day thereafter.
Ryan’s co-defendant, Wesley Allen Adair, was allowed to plead guilty to second-degree murder in exchange for his testimony against Ryan. If convicted, Ryan will face the death penalty.
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered an evidentiary hearing for Johnny Street Parker.
Parker was sent to death row in 1997 for the murder of James William Buchanan, the murder of Jerry Lee Dowdy, and the castration of Mr. Dowdy. The State asserted at trial that Parker had committed both murders and the castration alone. Only after Parker was convicted and sentenced to die did two police reports come to light, showing that not only did Parker not act alone, but that he neither killed nor castrated Mr. Dowdy. In legal terms, this failure to turn over material evidence is referred to as a Brady violation.
Parker presented this evidence earlier in his appeals to the US District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. That judge granted an evidentiary hearing, but arbitrarily limited the hearing to two hours. This meant that Parker only had time to fully question one witness, and was therefore unable to present all of the testimony he needed to support his claim. Furthermore, the Court refused to consider a summary Parker offered of the other evidence he would have presented. The Court ruled against Parker based on the limited evidence before it.
Because the district court refused to consider evidence that was “unquestionably…relevant to the question of whether the result of either the guilt or sentencing phase of the trial would have been different,” the 4th Circuit was unable to conduct meaningful appellate review of the Brady claim. The 4th Circuit remanded the case back to district court for a full hearing. Its order is available here.
Hassan Jamaal Bacote, 23, has been sentenced to death for the 2007 murder of Anthony Surles.
There is hardly anything about it in the media. Will update as more details become available.
In Gaston County, Judge Timothy Patti has denied legal fees for Michael Mead, who faces the death penalty. Mead is accused of killing his fiancee, Lucy Johnson, in 2008.
Normally the State pays for all of the legal fees and other expenses associated with a capital case. Mead, who owns a computer automation business, offered to relieve some of that burden by paying for one attorney himself. To properly investigate the case, that lawyer will need to hire experts and investigators. For any other capital defendant, the State would foot the bill. Judge Patti decided that Mead should be punished for attempting to assist with the cost of his own defense and denied his motion for help with these expenses.
DW wonders whether Judge Patti’s decision will so severely harm Mead’s defense effort that the case could be overturned on appeal. If Mead is not sufficiently indigent now, he soon will be. A proper capital defense costs more than any individual short of O.J. Simpson can afford. What evidence will be lost in the time it takes Mead to gain access to the investigative resources to which he is entitled?
This morning, prosecutors in Forsyth County announced their intention to seek the death penalty for Timothy Hartford. Along with his girlfriend, Ashley Kristine Smith, Hartford is accused of killing two people and injuring a third in 2008. Anne Mangess, a Meals on Wheels volunteer, was killed as she delivered food to Bob Denning. Denning was also killed. Mangess’ husband was injured.
Prosecutors said that the case warrants the death penalty because Mr. Denning was also robbed.
ETA: Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Ashley Smith on the same grounds.
Edward Wayne Burnett entered a plea of guilty to second-degree murder yesterday in Cumberland County. Burnett had faced the death penalty for the 2005 shooting of Damian Daughtry. Following his plea, Burnett will spent between sixteen and twenty years in prison. Burnett maintained his innocence, but said that as a father of three, he could not risk being executed or going to prison for life.
Hassan Bacote has been found guilty of first-degree murder, and a jury began deliberating his sentence today. Bacote, 23, shot Anthony Surles during a 2007 robbery in Selma. He will face either the death penalty or a sentence of life without parole.
New Hanover County has been given the green light to seek the death penalty for Gerard Altman, who has been accused of killing his mother and step-father. James and Laura Gallagher died of blunt force trauma this January.