It took a week of deliberating, but a North Carolina Superior Court judge announced this week that the trial of the man accused of a notorious Moore County mass murder will stay in the county. Defense counsel had sought a change of venue, arguing that the defendant couldn’t get a fair trial in Moore County. After hearing both defense and prosecution arguments, the judge agreed with the defense, in part — the trial will stay in Moore County, but the jury will be brought in from other parts of the state.
The March 2009 crime shocked the town of Carthage. The defendant is accused of taking two weapons into a nursing home and opening fire. Of the 11 people shot, seven patients and one nurse were killed. A police officer, responding to 911 calls, shot and wounded the defendant at the scene. The community has worked hard to recover without forgetting the victims; a memorial was held on the one-year anniversary of the killings.
To bolster their argument that the defendant could not get a fair trial, defense counsel had sponsored a survey of potential jurors in Moore County. The results showed that the vast majority of county residents — 95 percent — had heard of the case. More telling was the percentage of people who had already made a decision regarding the defendant’s guilt: 55 percent.
The prosecution argued that the survey was so statistically flawed that the results were meaningless. The judge agreed, in a way: He said that the defense had not proven that a fair trial wasn’t possible. However, he said, considering the extensive media coverage of the case in the Fayetteville and Raleigh region, the jury would come from another county that he would name at a later date.
The judge’s order also addressed prosecution’s request that their experts be allowed to conduct a mental health evaluation of the defendant. Defense counsel, however, has not mounted a mental health defense and argued that the prosecution’s request was premature. The judge disagreed. Prosecution will move forward with the evaluation.
The last issue decided by the order was where the defendant will remain until trial. Defense had argued that the defendant should remain at Central Prison in Raleigh for health and safety reasons. The judge disagreed. The defendant will be moved to the Moore County jail.
Resource: The Fayetteville Observer “Nursing Home Slayings Trial to Stay in Moore County” 10/15/10