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Defense: No evidence linking man to UNC professor's beating death

Posted March 15

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— Jurors deliberated for about three hours Wednesday without reaching a verdict in the murder trial of one of two men charged in the beating death of a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill professor almost three years ago.

Feng Liu, 59, a research professor in UNC's Eshelman School of Pharmacy, was taking a lunchtime walk on July 23, 2014, when he was beaten with a rock and robbed near the intersection of Ransom Street and West University Drive, police said. He died the following day at UNC Hospitals.

"He literally never knew what happened to him," Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall said in his closing argument in the trial of Troy Arrington Jr.

Arrington, 27, of Johnson Street in Chapel Hill, and Derick Davis II, 23, of Scots Pine Crossing in Durham, are charged with first-degree murder and robbery with a dangerous weapon in the case. A trial date for Davis hasn't been set.

Woodall said Arrington and Davis were out looking for people to rob, and Liu was attacked from behind and left in the roadway "not because of what he did have in his pockets but what he might have."

When a bystander came by to offer aid to Liu, he spotted Arrington and Davis nearby, and they didn't bother to call 911 or provide any other help to the injured professor, Woodall said.

"At that point, they need Professor Liu to die," the prosecutor told jurors. "They didn't need to get him any aid."

Public defender James Williams argued, however, that there's no evidence linking Arrington to the crime, and merely being nearby and not offering help isn't enough to convict him.

"Troy Arrington made some decisions that day that were clearly erroneous," Williams said in his closing argument, but added that the trial "is not a referendum on his character."

The defense pointed the finger at Davis as Liu's killer and said Arrington played no role in the attack.

There were no fingerprints or DNA found on the rock used to smash Liu's skull, and Davis had gloves with him when he was arrested, Williams said. He also noted that a jailhouse snitch who said Arrington confessed to buying things with Liu's credit card was incarcerated with Davis, not Arrington.

"You can't make your decision based on speculation and conjecture," Williams told jurors.

Woodall countered that Arrington hung out with Davis after Liu's attack.

"What kind of person would walk away with an individual who had just done that?" Woodall asked. "Only a person who knew what was going on and planned to benefit from it."

Liu's credit card was used to buy shoes and a cellphone, which were shipped to Arrington's address, Woodall said, and the jailhouse snitch knew exactly what had been ordered.

Deliberations are expected to resume Thursday morning.

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