"Under North Carolina law, the only felony more serious than that is first-degree murder. These crimes are actually punishable at a higher level than second-degree murder." ESPN
Earlier this week, murder charges were dismissed, at the request of the District Attorney’s office, for Julius Gray, the second defendant in the case of a drug related killing.
“A murder charge stemming from a fatal shooting outside The Streets at Southpoint mall was dismissed Tuesday, and the suspect pleaded guilty instead to a minor drug charge and received probation. Julius Gray was sentenced to two years of supervised probation and fined $200 after admitting he had conspired to sell marijuana. A suspended prison term of four to five months was left hanging over his head and could be activated if he violates any conditions of probation. Gray and another man had been charged with murder in the fatal shooting of Harvey Dennard Wiggins, who was shot outside The Streets at Southpoint two years ago this week while the mall was thronged with holiday shoppers. No one else was injured. The gunfire reportedly was sparked by a drug deal gone sour.” Herald Sun
“A man who was charged with killing a Raleigh man outside The Streets at Southpoint mall nearly two years ago pleaded guilty Wednesday [October 19] to involuntary manslaughter.”
“Evans, who surrendered to police the day after the shooting, pleaded guilty to the lesser charge in Durham County Superior Court on Wednesday. He was ordered to pay $5,712 in court and legal costs and was released on probation. He also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit the sale and delivery of marijuana.”
“Evans already had served 76 days in jail for the crimes, according to court documents.” N&O
“Investigators think that the 2004 shooting death of a man in a parking lot at The Streets at Southpoint mall was a case of cold-blooded murder. But they can't prove it.”
“Wiggins was looking to buy a large amount of the drug, and he got into the front seat of the car driven by Gray, Garrell said.”
“What happened next is in dispute.”
“Gray says that in the middle of a drug deal, Wiggins pulled a gun on him, and Evans fired his own weapon.”
“Investigators think Evans, who was sitting in the back seat, pulled a gun and shot Wiggins to death. Later someone threw a gun down to make it seem that Wiggins drew first, Garrell said.”
“The only other witness, who was across the parking lot, had credibility issues, Garrell said.”
“Probation is a privilege, in view of the fact that a defendant is judged guilty before the court spares him or her from a stretch in prison. In the case of Shawn Maurice Powell, that privilege was taken advantage of, and his probation should have been revoked. It wasn't, and Powell now is accused of murder. He allegedly stole a car, ran a red light and smashed into a car driven by Lisa Knelson, a Durham mother of two.
If Powell is convicted, it will be clear where the principal blame for this tragedy lies. But the episode also reflects poorly on the probation system.
Powell is a serial criminal, having tallied more than 100 charges, mostly minor, in 12 years.” N&O
“A man charged in an Aug. 8 slaying violated his probation several times this year but never was arrested.
“Michael Harrison Hunt Jr., 19, received a year of probation in February when he was convicted of misdemeanor larceny, second-degree trespassing and injury to personal property. Four months later, Hunt was accused of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Adam Christopher Lutz, 20, of Roxboro.” N&O
In March, we heard the District Attorney tell us:
"I'm making a statement to the Durham community and, as a citizen of Durham, I am making a statement for the Durham community. This is not the kind of activity we condone, and it must be dealt with quickly and harshly." NBC17
Not surprisingly, Bob Ashley at the Herald Sun takes full advantage of the opportunity to spin the probation deal given in the drug deal killing. In an editorial, “Murder to Probation,” appearing in today’s paper, the Snooze Room goes to bat for the District Attorney’s office.
"At first blush, an article in Wednesday's Herald-Sun about reduced charges in a murder case might seem like a simple case of a Durham court letting a killer off easy.
“It’s true that the facts in the case seem cut and dried. Three guys in a car at Southpoint Mall during the holiday season two years ago were up to no good -- engaged in a drug deal. Things went south, and one of them wound up dead with a
bullet in his head. The other two were charged with murder.
“Case closed? Not so fast. As often happens, the facts in this case might get in the
way of a simplistic story line."
Conveniently, the Snooze Room offers only one version of the "facts" in this case.
"Wiggins apparently went to the mall intending to buy marijuana from Gray and Evans. But according to defense lawyer Bill Thomas, Wiggins pulled a gun and wound up being shot himself, apparently by Evans."
Ashley fails, of course, to mention what investigators and prosecutors feel are the true facts in the case as doing so would make his argument justifying the mild slap on the wrist less credible. As noted above, the other side to the story belies what Ashley presents as the “facts.”
"Investigators think that the 2004 shooting death of a man in a parking lot at The Streets at Southpoint mall was a case of cold-blooded murder."
"Investigators think Evans, who was sitting in the back seat, pulled a gun and shot Wiggins to death. Later someone threw a gun down to make it seem that Wiggins drew first, Garrell said.” N&O
Ashley’s willingness to accept the defendants version of events as factual is a radical departure from his efforts to promote Nifong’s hoax. When first degree murder yields probation, assumedly due to the prosecutor and police being unable to make their case, the defendants version of events become facts as Ashley dons his cheerleader outfit. When the accused are politically expedient pawns, he instead warns readers to distrust the defense attorneys.
"We've tried to consistently remind that all the facts aren't out, and that the defense attorneys are releasing just what fragments of the total evidence they choose to make public."
Incredibly, Ashley concludes with the following caution to young people after rationalizing the acceptability of probation as punishment for shooting a man in the head during a drug deal:
"The case may be complicated, but it holds one sure lesson for young people. Don't put yourself in a situation like this -- things could go south for you too, and you might not get off as easily."
By "go south," we assume that Ashley refers to shooting someone in the head and not getting shot in the head as his reference to getting off lightly certainly doesn't seem to apply to the dead young man. Sadly, it appears that the Snooze Room's willingness to casually dismiss the event as something akin to a close call could only have done the community a greater disservice if Ashley had pointed to the lesson as being, "Kids, be sure that if you pull out your gun in a drug deal, you use it. Draw quickly and make certain to aim for the head. Above all, don't forget to bring an extra piece to drop so you can be sure to get off easily by making it look like the dead guy started it."