Witnesses' credibility attacked in Chapel Hill man's murder trial
Posted May 7, 2012
Hillsborough, N.C. — A defense attorney for an Orange County man accused of ordering the execution-style shooting of a Chapel Hill man in 2008 attacked the credibility of the state's witnesses Monday during closing arguments of the month-long trial.
Brian Gregory Minton, 22, was one of six men charged with first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping and conspiracy to commit kidnapping in the death of Joshua McCabe Bailey, 20, whose body was found near Jordan Lake in September 2008.
Several witnesses testified that Minton ordered another man, Matt Johnson, to shoot Bailey after becoming suspicious that Bailey was stealing from the group of friends, who would burglarize homes and sell the stolen items to pay for drugs, and was helping police investigate the group.
The group confronted Bailey in the garage of Minton's home, restrained and beat him and then took him to some woods in Orange County, where Johnson shot Bailey in the head. They buried him in a shallow grave and then moved his body several weeks later to where it was found near the lake.
But defense attorney James Glover, who called no witnesses in the trial, argued that many of the witnesses who were also charged in the case, including Johnson, had conflicting accounts of the events leading to Bailey's death. Some also stand to benefit possibly from lighter sentences or plea deals in exchange for testifying against Minton, Glover said. Johnson is still in jail awaiting trial.
"You are going to be faced with credibility issues," Glover told jurors. "You must examine their testimony with great care and caution."
Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall countered in his closing argument that jurors had to look at the overall case for a clear picture of what happened and needed to understand that those who testified were witnesses to the crime and knew what happened.
"The state didn't pick these people out (to testify). The state didn't choose who was in the garage that day," Woodall said. "The defendant chose those people, and the state had to pick from among them."
Many of them, Woodall admitted, had questionable backgrounds and made bad decisions and some didn't always tell the truth. But, Woodall reasoned, people involved in a murder aren't always going to be truthful.
"You are not going to have choir boys (testifying)," Woodall said. "Choir boys don't get involved in murders, and they don't go around reburying bodies."
Glover also argued that his client is not guilty of first-degree murder, because he never intended to kill Bailey. He only wanted to scare him, and Johnson took matters into his own hands when he shot Bailey.
But prosecutors told jurors that, under state law, even if a person doesn't actually commit the act of murder, they can still be held responsible and convicted of first-degree murder.
"Every single person in that garage that day is responsible for what happened," Orange County Assistant District Attorney Byron Beasley said. "But no one is more responsible for what happened to Josh Bailey than the defendant. He had the power of life and death over Josh Bailey."
The jury of 10 women and two men began deliberating late Monday afternoon. If convicted of first-degree murder, Minton faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.
In addition to Minton and Johnson, seven other people, including Minton's parents, were also charged in the case. Two of them have pleaded guilty.