Former student found not guilty in deacon's slaying
Posted February 20, 2009 3:26 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:13 p.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — 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.
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.