My client would have died in prison. It’s that simple. Only 19 years old at the time of the crime, his whole life on the line – everything hung on the verdict the jury brought back into the courtroom.
North Carolina has a law called “acting in concert.” Not quite the same as conspiracy, but it meant a First Degree Murder charge just the same. Life in prison.
Prosecutors accused my client of acting in concert with a man who stuck a gun out the front passenger window of the car and fired shots. The people he aimed for scattered. You can see that on videotape. In the end, a man lay dead.
It was an assassination, under the prosecution theory.
My client drove the getaway car, they claimed.
He didn’t pull the trigger, but he drove his friend who had the gun who pulled the trigger. It looked as though killing a man was the plan all along.
In the recorded interview with a detective shortly after the shooting, you can see two big problems facing my client: He knows he isn’t guilty but he’s holding back to protect his friend.
More Courage Than I’ll Ever Have
My client had the option of taking a plea but refused. He wanted trial. He risked his entire life for that not-guilty verdict.
I don’t know what I would’ve done in his shoes.
You never know what might happen. It could just as easily have come out the other way-GUILTY-but it didn’t. I managed to convince the jury to side with my client rather than the state.
At the Trial Lawyers College, I learned something about empathy. I learned how to get at the story behind someone’s behavior. In this case, I stressed to the jury the truth behind my client’s emotions in that interview room with the detective.
In that room, at that time, he was only 19. He was scared. He didn’t want to admit to anything but also didn’t want to get his friend in trouble.
He also said he had nothing to do with the shooting.
The jury believed him – believed in the argument we presented and in my client’s innocence, and for that my client will no doubt be grateful all the years of his free life.