JOHNSTON COUNTY, N.C. — The hearing for a convicted killer who is appealing his death sentence started Monday in Smithfield.
Three men were convicted in the February 1992 stabbing deaths of Leon and Margaret Batten. Eugene DeCastro was sentenced to death. A jury gave Chris Goode two life sentences while his brother, George, went to death row.
Goode admits being present when the couple was being stabbed, but he claims that he froze and did not take part. On Monday, psychologist Dr. Seymour Hallek backed Goode's claims. Hallek also expressed doubts about an alleged eyewitness to the crime.
"His perceptual difficulties, his hallucinating, his dependency -- all of those things would have made him a pretty, unreliable observer," he said.
George Goode's attorneys said jurors were misled about inconclusive blood testing on his boots. Trial lawyers admitted in recent affidavits that they were ineffective in cross-examination about the evidence.
"I believe there was no way possible he could have been close to the stabbings and not gotten blood on him," attorney David Ainley, who worked as a legal assistant at the time of the original trial.
Investigators also said that 12 years ago, they did not find blood on George Goode's clothing and now, despite objections from defense attorneys, agents with the State Bureau of Investigation are retesting his overalls.
"I can state for the record that I was shown through a microscope what appeared to be some kind of substance attached to the fiber of Mr. Goode's coveralls that the SBI would like to test further," said Assistant Attorney General Barry McNeil.
"Why are they grasping at straws now to try to take our evidence from this hearing and try to find something new on Mr. Goode?" appeals attorney Diane Savage said.
Goode's attorneys argued Monday that a number of people have handled and cross-contaminated evidence from the victims and the suspects. Prosecutors admit they still have a strong case against Goode, which includes the eyewitness, Goode being arrested with the victim's wallet, plus a cellmate who claims Goode confessed to the crime.
The appeal hearing is expected to last through the week.