October 28, 2010
In Catawba County, the trial of Edwardo Wong is drawing to a close. Wong has been found guilty of shooting State Trooper David Shawn Blanton, Jr. in 2008. For the past several days, the jury has been hearing additional evidence to help them decide what sentence Wong should receive for his crime. Yesterday the jury heard from Wong’s 12-year-old son, who would like to continue to have a relationship with his father, and a former prison warden, who testified that Wong is not the sort of inmate who is likely to commit further violence if incarcerated.
In a capital murder case, after the defendant has been found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, the jury still has to decide his sentence. Life without the possibility of parole is the presumed sentence for first-degree murder.
October 25, 2010
The Buckner trial is ongoing in McDowell County and the sentencing phase of the Wong trial is continuing in Catawba County. Jury selection continues in the Ramos trial in Scotland County.
In Robeson County, jury selection has begun in State v. Anthony Pinkston (scroll down for info). Pinkston is accused of a 2007 shooting.
In Forsyth County, the trial of Timothy Hartford began today. Hartford and his girlfriend, Ashley Smith, are accused of a 2008 double homicide. Prosecutors also plan to seek the death penalty against Smith.
October 15, 2010
Edwardo Wong has been found guilty of first-degree murder in the 2008 shooting death of a state trooper. The Catawba County jury will now decide whether Wong should be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole or to the death penalty.
In McDowell County, five weeks and two incidents of misconduct later, a jury has finally been seated for the trial of Stephen Buckner. The jury of eight women and four men will decide whether Buckner is guilty of three 2008 shooting deaths and, if so, what penalty he should receive. Three alternate jurors have also been selected in case there are further issues with the jury.
October 14, 2010
In McDowell County, jury selection for the capital trial of Stephen Buckner has hit another snag. Last week, a potential juror was disciplined for intentionally trying to get thrown off the jury. This week, a juror who had already been selected was removed by the judge after evidence surfaced that the man had been involved in or overheard a conversation with others in the courthouse about the case. Jurors are repeatedly instructed not to discuss the case and to remove themselves from any situation in which they might be exposed to such conversations. It is critically important that jurors consider only the evidence presented in the courtroom when deciding a case. The man in question should have particularly aware of this rule, as his regular job involves working in the courthouse. There is no report of whether the man will be punished for violating the judge’s instructions.
October 14, 2010
After hearing closing arguments yesterday, a Catawba County jury is deliberating in the trial of Edwardo Wong. Jurors could find Wong guilty of first-degree murder, guilty of second-degree murder, or not guilty of murdering State Trooper David Shawn Blanton. Wong admits to shooting Blanton, but asserts that the killing was not premeditated. If Wong is convicted of first-degree murder, the same jury will decide whether he should be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole or receive the death penalty.
October 8, 2010
Casey Franklin Woody told the other people waiting to be questioned that he would do whatever it took to get out of jury service. The McDowell County man got his wish, but he also earned a court date of his own.
Woody was one of the citizens called for possible jury service in the death penalty trial of Stephen Buckner. The nineteen year old told his fellow prospective jurors that he was self-employed and wanted to get out of jury service because he didn’t think it paid enough. Woody repeatedly violated the judge’s orders for jurors not to discuss the case amongst themselves. He is facing up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.
As Judge Lee acknowledged in speaking to Woody about his actions, Stephen Buckner is on trial for his life. Jury service is a privilege of membership in our society, not a burden. In any case, but especially in a capital case, we owe it to ourselves, to one another, and to the criminal justice system to take our oath and duty as jurors seriously. Hopefully Mr. Woody has learned his lesson.
October 5, 2010
In Cumberland County, Dexter McRae has been sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for the 2006 murder of his wife.
In Catawba County, the defense has rested in the guilt phase of the trial of Edwardo Wong. The defense has argued that Wong should be convicted of second rather than first degree murder because a traumatic brain injury he suffered as a child limits his ability to control his actions. You can read more about the defense’s position here, here, and here. The State is expected to present additional evidence in rebuttal before the case goes to the jury.
In McDowell County, ten jurors have been selected for the trial of Stephen Buckner. Jury selection is expected to end this week.
In Scotland County, jury selection has just begun for Albert Ramos.
October 1, 2010
6 – Michael Benge (OH)
14 – Gayland Bradford (TX)
14 – Donald Wackerly II (OK)
16 – Jeffrey Matthews (OK – stay likely)
19 – Kenneth Hairston (PA – stay likely)
20 – Cletus Rivera (PA – stay likely)
20 – Roderick Nunley (MO)
21 – Jerry Chambers (PA – stay likely)
21 – Larry Wooten (TX)
26 – Jeffrey Landrigan (AZ)