NC Death Penalty – 2011 Year in Review

January 5, 2012

Quick Facts

  • Executions: 0
  • Persons removed from death row for other reasons: 3
  • New death sentences: 3
  • Capital trials not resulting in death: 11

In Detail

  • Persons Removed from Death Row

> Isaac Stroud (Durham) – In February, Isaac Stroud was declared incompetent to be executed and re-sentenced to life.

> John Fleming (Northampton) – This fall, John Fleming died of natural causes at the age of 83.  Fleming was first sent to death row at the age of 70.

> David “Bo” Williams (Bertie) – David Williams died of natural causes at the age of 46.  He had been on death row since 1996.

  • New Death Sentences

> Tony Summers (Guilford) – Tony Summers was convicted of stabbing Lavell Williams and assaulting her two children.

> Danny Hembree (Gaston) – Danny Hembree was convicted of smothering Heather Catterton.

> William Robinson (Stanly) – William Robinson was convicted of shooting Keith Crump and injuring another man.

  • Capital Trials Not Resulting in Death

> Michael Mead (Gaston) – Michael Mead was found not guilty of killing his pregnant fiancée and setting her house on fire.  The defense presented evidence that Mead was 50 miles away when the crime occurred.

> Al Bellamy (Iredell/Gaston) – A mistrial was declared when it was revealed during the guilt-or-innocence phase of Al Bellamy’s trial that prosecutors failed to disclose over 1700 pages of evidence to the defense.  If the State elects to try Bellamy again, it will be prohibited from seeking the death penalty.

> Robert Stewart (Moore) – Robert Stewart was convicted of second-degree murder after opening fire in a nursing home and killing eight people.  The cumulative sentence was at least 141 years in prison.

> Brandon Gross (Buncombe) – Brandon Gross was convicted of second degree murder, robbery, and burglary for beating a man to death in his home.  He will serve at least 43 years in prison.

> Shelton Mills (Pitt) – Shelton Mills was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole after being convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend.

> Danny Thomas (Columbus) –Danny Thomas, previously convicted of murder in another county was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for four additional killings.

> Joshua Stepp (Wake) – Joshua Stepp was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for the sexual assault and beating death of his ten month-old stepdaughter.

> Larry Robinson (Robeson) – Larry Robinson killed two men and injured a third in an ambush-style assault, and was sentenced to life without parole.

> Melba Slaydon (Randolph) – During jury selection, Melba Slaydon accepted a plea to life without parole in the killing of her husband.

> Dennis Mills (Alamance) – During jury selection, Dennis Mills accepted a plea to life without parole for shooting two men to death in their home.  Mills had previously been convicted of another homicide.

> James Richardson (Pitt) – After James Richardson was convicted of killing two men in a drive-by shooting, prosecutors dropped their request for the death penalty.

Michael Mead Found Not Guilty

July 12, 2011

A Mecklenburg County jury returned a verdict of not guilty today in the trial of Michael Mead.  The State had sought the death penalty.  After a two month trial, the jury deliberated for two days before finding that Mead did not kill his pregnant fiancee in 2008.

Closing Arguments Heard in Mead Trial

July 11, 2011

On Friday, prosecutors and defense attorneys made their closing arguments in the guilt-or-innocence phase of the Michael Mead trial.  Prosecutors claim, based on the testimony of a jailhouse snitch, that Mead shot his fiancee when she tried to break up with him.  Defense attorneys assert that the victim was in fact killed by her ex-boyfriend, with whom she was involved in a heated custody battle.

Jurors must now decide whether Mead is guilty or not guilty of first-degree murder.  If they find him guilty, he could face the death penalty.

Troubled Mead Trial Continues

July 6, 2011

News is hard to find about the trial of Michael Mead, but it is clear that things are not going as planned for the prosecution.  Last week, the trial judge threw out two of the four charges against Mead for lack of evidence.  Now, the victim’s mother is calling for a mistrial because she thinks prosecutors have mishandled the case.

Prosecutors claim that Michael Mead murdered his girlfriend Lucy Johnson, while the defense asserts that the crime was committed by another man with whom Johnson was engaged in a heated custody battle.  The trial was moved from Gaston County to Mecklenburg County due to extensive pretrial publicity.

Mead Prosecutor Seriously Ill; Judge Refuses Trial Delay

June 8, 2011

In Gaston County, the lead prosecutor handling the Michael Mead case has fallen ill.  Judge Forrest Bridges refused to delay the proceedings so that Assistant District Attorney Bob Forbes can receive medical treatment, forcing the DA’s office to assign a new prosecutor who is unfamiliar with the case.

This blog might speak more often of injustices done to the defense than the prosecution, but in this case, Judge Bridges’ decision benefits no one.  It is in everyone’s best interests for a capital trial to take place only once, with both sides fully prepared and capable of presenting their case to the jury.  Here, the jury has not yet been impaneled.  Taking a break during jury selection would not force a mistrial, burden prospective jurors, or be a waste of court resources.

What does waste resources is taking another prosecutor away from the cases he was supposed to be working on, delaying the proceedings in an unknown number of other matters.  Rushing the trial forward under these circumstances is disrespectful to all involved, and needlessly creates an atmosphere ripe for the kind of error that could cause any conviction to be reversed on appeal.

DeathWatch wishes Mr. Forbes a speedy recovery.

Evidence Withheld from Mead Defense

May 31, 2011

In Gaston County, evidence emerged today that the police did not turn over their complete files in the case of Michael Mead.  Mead is accused of an arson-murder which occurred in 2008.  Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty; Mead has always maintained his innocence.

Judge Denies Counsel Funds for Capital Defendant

April 8, 2009

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?


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