Blockbuster Murder Witness Wants Monetary Reward
Posted February 5, 1998 6:00 a.m. EST
RALEIGH — The trial is long over, the murderer is behind bars, but the key witness still has not received a reward. Blockbuster Video offered $50,000 for information leading to a conviction in the 1994 murder of one of its employees, but the company never paid.
Now, that witness is taking the video giant to court. Derald Brown was Vincent Hall's roommate. Hall is serving time in prison for killing the Blockbuster employee. Brown claims Hall told him about committing the crime. Two years later, Brown told police in return for a lesser sentence in a series of armed robberies. Now, he wants his reward money, but Blockbuster contends getting a lighter sentence was his reward.
Derald Brown is hoping a judge will make him $50,000 richer because Brown's statement to police and testimony helped catch and convict Hall. Blockbuster Video offered the reward in the death of employee, Keir Lobeck, which happened outside its Mission Valley store. Now, Brown's attorney, Johnny Gaskins, says that Blockbuster needs to pay up. "The bare, absolute truth of this matter is that Blockbuster Video never thought the day would come when someone would come forth and say, 'Guys, it's time to pay up.'"
Blockbuster says Brown, who was facing a long prison sentence for armed robbery, received a lesser sentence in return for his information. Blockbuster attorney John Huston says that's all the payment he needs. "Mr. Brown gave the information in exchange for a plea bargain, he's already been paid and is seeking a double recovery. We do not believe it is warranted under the law."
Blockbuster's attorneys also say it took two years for Brown to come forward. That was long after the reward had been widely publicized. Brown's attorneys say he was scared of Hall. "Vincent Hall told him he'd kill him if he came forward. That's a pretty good motive to wait until the time to make sure that wasn't going to happen."
Blockbuster wants to wait and pay the reward until after an appeal. Brown's lawyers say that was not the deal. The court has taken the case under advisement and should make a decision in the next few weeks.
Meanwhile the state is reportedly going to give Brown the $5,000 reward it promised.