Jury Finds NCSU Wrestler Not Guilty in Death of Fellow Student
Posted September 1, 1999 7:00 a.m. EDT
RALEIGH — The verdict is in in the trial of a former N.C. State University wrestler charged with the death of another student late last year. A Wake County jury has found Billy Blunt not guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Neil Davis, Jr. He was found guilty on a lesser charge of breaking and entering.
After deliberating for almost three hours, the verdict was read to a packed courtroom.
Blunt's friends and supporters were relieved; his parents were overcome with joy. Neil Davis' family and friends were hoping for a guilty verdict in the case, someone to blame for his early death. That did not happen.
"I know Neil as a person. He was 100 percent dedicated to everything he touched in life, be it academics, business, friends. To have his life end over something like this is just a pitiful situation all in all," says friend Ben Vandiver.
In closing arguments, which lasted for about an hour and a half Friday morning, Blunt's attorney, Russell Dement, told the jury his client was trying to do a good deed, to protect others from Neil Davis who had fired eight rounds in the direction of an off-campus party.
Another wrestler, George Citron, was grazed in the shoulder. At that point, his teammates converged on Davis.
But in the struggle, the gun went off,Davis was killed, and Blunt was with charged with involuntary manslaughter.
Blunt's friend and wrestling teammate Michael Modersky, who is charged with misdemeanor breaking and entering in the incident, testified that he did not see the gun go off.
During the trial, Blunt testified the shooting was an accident that occurred while he was trying to disarm Davis.
"You have a young man who believes in his heart, in the split instant that he has to think about it, that he is doing the right thing," Dement said.
Dement painted Davis, the victim, as a drunk madman with a gun who was intent on taking lives.
"Why did Neil Davis have this weapon?" Dement asked. "Is there any other conclusion? For the purpose of killing people."
The prosecution paints a different picture of the events surrounding the November 22, 1998 incident.
"It's about rage. It's about anger. It's about a mob mentality," assistant district attorney Doug Faucette said.
"Our community should not permit vigilante justice to be a substitute for courtroom justice," he said.
In order to have found Blunt guilty of involuntary manslaughter, the jury had to determine whether he either acted unlawfully and caused Davis' death, or acted in a reckless or negligent manner.
The breaking and entering charge is a misdemeanor and Blunt is expected to be sentenced Tuesday morning. Since he has no prior record, there is a good chance he will be put on probation.