Local News

Court denies Grant Hayes' bid for new trial

Posted March 3, 2015 8:58 a.m. EST
Updated March 3, 2015 11:22 a.m. EST

Grant Hayes sits during his trial on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013, for the July 2011 murder of his ex-girlfriend, Laura Ackerson.

— Grant Hayes, who is serving life in prison for the grisly 2011 death of his ex-girlfriend, Laura Jean Ackerson, has been denied a request for an appeal.

Hayes claimed that jurors in his 2013 trial should not have heard testimony about a psychological report that offered a possible motive for the crime.

Hayes' attorney, Glenn Gerding, told a three-member appeals panel in January that part of Raleigh homicide detective Jerry Faulk's testimony – meant to bolster the credibility of jailhouse informant Pablo Trinidad – was hearsay. Gerding also questioned the admissibility of a psychological report Hayes had during his custody fight with Ackerson, with whom he shared two sons.

A Wake County jury found Hayes guilty of first-degree murder in 2013. His then-wife, Amanda Hayes, was convicted of second-degree murder. At their separate trials, the couple blamed each other for the murder and dismemberment of Ackerson, whose remains were found in a Texas creek near the home of Amanda Hayes' sister.

A key witness in the trial, Trinidad said Hayes admitted to killing Ackerson and provided him details of her death that had not been released in the media.

The hearsay, Gerding argued, came in when Faulk testified that the information Trinidad provided was consistent with what he also had told a federal agent in 2012.

Faulk was not present for that federal interview.

"Detective Faulk was allowed to testify as to what a federal investigator told him that Mr. Trinidad told the federal investigator at an interview where Detective Faulk was not present, and that is classic hearsay," Gerding said.

Arguing on behalf of the state, Assistant Attorney General Derrick Mertz countered, saying Faulk never revealed any details of that conversation.

"Detective Faulk never testified about the content of the statement Pablo Trinidad gave to federal authorities at that time," Mertz said. "There was no hearsay in the line of questioning.

"What he told federal authorities never came into evidence," Mertz added.

Both Grant Hayes and Ackerson had been battling for custody of their two young sons and, as part of that fight, they submitted to a court-ordered psychological evaluation that resulted in a report that was favorable to Ackerson.

Wake prosecutors contended that it angered Hayes, who wanted Ackerson out of his life, and that the report was a likely motive for him to kill her.

That report was the second issue before the Court of Appeals.

"Contents of the report that Dr. (Ginger) Calloway testified to were inflammatory and highly prejudicial," Gerding argued. "She discussed a number of things in this report that had no evidentiary value to the state's case."

Gerding said jurors learned about Hayes' admitted drug use, his mental health and other matters that should have been redacted or kept from the jury.

The Court of Appeals disagreed, ruling that neither Calloway's report nor Faulk's testimony constituted an error worthy of granting Hayes' appeal.

Amanda Hayes was convicted last year of second-degree murder and sentenced to 13 to 16 years in prison. Her attorney has said that she is not appealing her conviction.