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Former student found not guilty in deacon's slaying

Posted February 20, 2009
Updated March 9, 2009

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— A man charged with first-degree murder in the slaying of a Raleigh deacon is free after a jury on Friday found him not guilty.

Latrell Cyrell Latham, 17, was in jail for more than a year after the Oct. 23, 2007, shooting death of Richard Gus Brown.

Former student found not guilty in deacon's slaying Teen found not guilty in deacon's slaying

Brown, 74, had returned from a church meeting and was checking his mail outside his Wallingford Drive apartment when he was shot, Raleigh police said.

"Take this as an opportunity to get a second chance at life," Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway told Latham Friday.

Brown's family declined to comment, but Wake County Assistant District Attorney Howard Cummings said they, as well as the state, are disappointed by the verdict.

"When the jury finds somebody not guilty, they're not saying that he didn't do it," Cummings said. "They're saying we didn't prove it. I'm satisfied that he committed this crime."

Cummings said that the state believes Latham, who had the gang nickname, "Murder," committed the act "so that his name would mean something."

"But the law would not allow the jury to hear what his nickname was," Cummings said.

Latham, who appeared to laugh as the verdict was read, was in jail on an unrelated armed robbery charge on Nov. 13, 2007, when he was charged in Brown's death.

He has since pleaded guilty to the robbery charge and served his sentence.

"He's been in a gang. He's made bad decisions, so I think he will learn from this a great deal," defense attorney Jeff Cutler said.

Latham, a former Millbrook High School student, claims he was with friends the night Brown was killed and that he had nothing to do with the shooting.

But prosecutors said Latham's palm print and fingerprints were found at the scene of the crime.

Cutler said police wanted to solve the case but that there was not enough evidence to prove it.

"There are no other suspects. There were no other leads. There's nothing for the Raleigh Police Department to do in this case because they solved the case," Cummings said.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • Halyard Feb 20, 2009

    This boy will answer to God Almighty for this!

    Good chance he'll wind up being murdered or in prison for another crime pretty soon....hope he doesn't kill someone else!

    Prayers be with the victim's family.

  • Viewer Feb 20, 2009

    Reasonable doubt is all that is needed not convict a person on trial. If the state puts forth a half baked case, despite the heartfelt beliefs of the investigating officers and DA personnel, the jury is obligated not to convict.

  • FE Feb 20, 2009

    I must be missing something here, as I thought it was the JURY who found "Murder" innocent.

    Tough to blame that one on the judge....

    And I also am curious as to how many people knew some relevant facts about the homicide but just, ah, "chose" not to say anything or later had a memory lapse.

  • Common Sense Man Feb 20, 2009

    You think allowing his nickname in court would have changed the verdict? There are a lot of things I wish they "allowed in" that they don't, but allowing something in that you know will cause the case to be overturned in appeals is pretty useless. Personally I think they should be allowed to use the fact that he's in a gang, his nickname, etc. But unfortunately I don't have any say in the matter.

  • WRALcensorsforIslam Feb 20, 2009

    Monday's email comedy tagline:

    "Take this as an opportunity to get a second chance at life,"

    -Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway to a murderer he kept at large.

    It's hard to think of anything Ridgeway could have said that is as appalling or as cold blooded as that. What he effectively said was:

    "Next time wear gloves when you shoot."

    Hopefully the victim's family will go after the killer with a civil lawsuit. They won't get anything but the satisfaction of making the Judge and DA look like fools, but that would be more than what they got from the "criminal justice system", what a joke.

  • SANDHILL Feb 20, 2009

    I guess the lesson he learned is you can do murder and get away with it.

  • WRALcensorsforIslam Feb 20, 2009

    I am really unconcerned with the intricacies of the rules of evidence the attorneys have created. I thought I made it clear that the system they created it corrupted, probably beyond redemption. Ridgeway is nothing but a bad actor in a bad play, the system itself. I know the defense that is coming next, it's the equivalent of "he was just following the rules/orders." Yep, our Army hung a lot of people in 1947 who thought that judiciously obeying contemptible laws/rules/orders was a legitimate defense for heinous behavior. It is not. He should have had the backbone and the integrity to allow the jury to hear it all then let an appeals court dare to overturn the decision. Worst case, the perp stays in jail until the appeals court makes a decision. These actors, be they judges or prosecutors, are hiding behind a system they have created and refined and are pretending they have no options. Ridgeway is not the only judge who deserves to be voted out of office for lacking a backbone.

  • Common Sense Man Feb 20, 2009


    Uhhhh, do you actually know rules of evidence in a trial? Your response was long and passionate, but failed to provide any examples of case law as to why the judge is wrong.

  • Common Sense Man Feb 20, 2009

    If you'd read my post again and see the quotation marks around the first comment, you'd realize that I was quoting someone from another post. My comment was an answer to their post. It's really really simple.

  • dcli51 Feb 20, 2009

    This is a total outrage. Look at that smirk on his face. I doubt he has the gang nickname "Murder" for nothing. How in the world do you explain his prints on the mailbox when he doesn't even live there? Then he brags to all his gang member friends that he did it, and then the DA has trouble getting them to admit it again in a court.

    Praying for the victim's family, I am certain this is not the type of closure or justice for which they were hoping.