Local News

Gag Order Issued for Mortician's Murder Trial

Posted January 30, 2008 11:23 a.m. EST
Updated January 30, 2008 1:18 p.m. EST

— A judge on Wednesday issued an order for court personnel not to say anything outside court during the upcoming trial of a former Rocky Mount funeral-home owner on charges he had his wife killed.

Mark Bowling is charged with first-degree murder in the death of his wife, Julie. She was found shot to death Dec. 8, 2006, inside the couple's garage.

Investigators said Rose Vincent pulled the trigger, but that Mark Bowling helped her plan the slaying. He and Vincent were in a romantic relationship, according to authorities.

Citing the intense publicity surrounding the case, Bowling's attorneys asked last fall that all pretrial hearings be closed to the media and public, that a gag order be issued to prevent attorneys, witnesses and others connected with the case from commenting publicly about it, that all court records in the case be sealed until at least the start of the trial and that cameras be barred from the trial.

Wednesday, they narrowed that to preventing people connected with the case from talking about it outside the courtroom. Nash County Assistant District Attorney Keith Werner also requested a gag order for the trial, but attorneys for WRAL and other media outlets argued against the motion.

Superior Court Judge Quentin Sumner combined the prosecution and defense requests into an order against "extra-judicial" comments by court personnel. It was unclear whether that includes witnesses in the case.

Sumner was expected to hear several pretrial motions in the case Wednesday. Members of Mark Bowling's and Julie Bowling's families attended the hearing.

Bowling has been in Central Prison in Raleigh for the past year awaiting trial, and his attorneys asked that Sumner set a bond so Bowling can be released to help prepare for the trial. Sumner refused.

No trial dates have been set for Bowling or Vincent, who will be tried separately. Prosecutors have said they plan to seek the death penalty against both.

Defense attorneys also argued unsuccesffully that the evidence against Bowling didn't amount to a capital offense, so the death penalty shouldn't be considered.