Local News

DA won't pursue death penalty in Durham store clerk's shooting

Posted July 30, 2015

— Durham County prosecutors say they don't plan to try the July 4 robbery and slaying of a convenience store clerk as a capital case.

Amer Mahmood, 48, was gunned down as he worked at Joy Food Mart, at 2109 N. Roxboro St. Dmarlo Johnson, 26, of Durham, is charged with murder, robbery with a dangerous weapon and assault on a government official in the case.

Based on witness statements and store security camera footage, police said a man with a shirt pulled up over his face brandished a handgun and demanded money from Mahmood. Mahmood placed the cash drawer from the register on the counter and put his hands up, and the robber went behind the counter and shot Mahmood three times, including once after he had collapsed on the floor, before grabbing the money and some cigarettes and leaving.

After dropping the money and cigarettes in his car, the robber is seen on security video returning to grab more cigarettes, shoot Mahmood a fourth time, fire shots at the security cameras and threaten customers.

Police officers responding to 911 calls from customers in the store confronted the robber as he left the second time. Officers exchanged gunfire with the man, who was wounded and taken into custody.

Carolyn Mahmood called the decision not to seek the death penalty in her husband's death "unacceptable."

"Amer and us, his family, got the death penalty the second that trigger was pulled," Carolyn Mahmood wrote in an email to WRAL News. "Amer was only working, and Amer paid with his life. Amer got the death penalty, and so did we. Now, it's Dmarlo Johnson's turn."

"Where is the justice for Amer? Where is the justice for his two now fatherless children?" Barbra White, Carolyn Mahmood's aunt, wrote in an email to WRAL News. "This is a second death sentence for this family. Amer died, and now his family has to endure a trial that we already know will not produce the outcome that is deserved. Clearly, the justice system is lacking."

Prosecutors declined to comment on their decision, saying legal ethics prevent them from discussing the facts of the case or their opinion of the facts.

Community members gathered outside Joy Food Mart on Thursday evening to remember Amer Mahmood and support his family.

The vigil was organized by Nonviolent Durham and will be hosted by leaders of three different religions. Rev. Bruce Puckett, director of community ministry for Duke University Chapel, said the gathering will help the community heal.

"It's an opportunity to pray, an opportunity to lament, an opportunity to listen to people who knew Amer and an opportunity to say our community has lost because we lost him," Puckett said.

Carolyn Mahmood and her children are in New York and can't attend the vigil, but she sent remarks that were read at the gathering.


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  • Belle Boyd Jul 31, 2015
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    Giving him the death penalty is going to cost you more than just putting in prison. http://www.forbes.com/sites/kellyphillipserb/2014/05/01/considering-the-death-penalty-your-tax-dollars-at-work/

    Even when you give him the death penalty, he is essentially going to be in prison for the rest of his life. Either way it is a loss.

  • Brandy Lee Jul 31, 2015
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    This is a joke Roger. Why are you guys not going after the death penalty? How many more times did he need to just him just for fun? Wow, gotta love Durham. All the unsolved shootings we have and when you do catch one we set him up for the tax payers to foot the bill the rest of his life and he gets to eat, watch TV, work out, see and talk to his family, etc. Bad call

  • Belle Boyd Jul 31, 2015
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    I don't see anything wrong with the death penalty. If the justice system followed the rules like the old days were the punishment was sure, swift and severe then we probably wouldn't have as many problems as we do.

    With that said, even if the DA went for the death penalty they would most likely get life in prison as the sentence. Now it takes more money to keep someone on death row than in prison itself. If someone is on death row they will still spend the rest of their life in prison because of all the appeals, people in front of him, etc. I think I read no one in NC has be executed since 2006 because of all the legal problems. So even if you go for the death penalty you are essentially sending the person to jail for life.

  • Jason Starcommand Jul 31, 2015
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    The DA must have found out the killer was raised by a single parent and had a poor upbringing and stopped at the store on his way to church. So if he escapes from prison and commits more crimes then the DA should also be charged.

  • Nick LeBon Jul 30, 2015
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    One need only see a picture of DA to understand why.

  • Robert Smith Jul 30, 2015
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    The DA that made this decision should not have a job if he can't to what needs to be done. He should resign tomorrow.

  • Larraine Mandeville Jul 30, 2015
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    There is no excuse for not seeking the death penalty..is the DA afraid of protests perhaps? Amer was gunned down in cold blood. Shame on you.

  • Craig Elliott Jul 30, 2015
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    I'm not a death penalty proponent on purely practical grounds -it costs more to execute than it does to incarcerate for life, but I have to wonder what would happen to crime in America if we went back to the principle of lex talionis, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, no excuses, no alibis, no mitigating circumstances.

  • Wayne Boyd Jul 30, 2015
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    I wish the cop that wounded him had been a better shot, but wait then he'd be on administrative leave charged with the use of excessive force.

  • Johan Summer Jul 30, 2015
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    You are so correct! They'd be looting, and laying across hwy 70 in Durham again, and Barbour would be demanding a federal investigation. Our legal system is indeed broken. The Durham DA should be ashamed for not pursuing the death penalty. This criminal went back into the store and shot the victim a 4th time. Come on - if that doesn't deserve the death penalty - I don't know what does.