Judge begins process of moving murder cases to trial
Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood’s effort to resolve the murder caseload of Vance County began Thursday with status hearings.
Another round is set for the week of Feb. 14.
A dismissal was filed by prosecutors on a murder charge against Juan Antwon Miles. Hobgood accepted it, but did not give a ruling pending necessary notifications. (See Page A3).
Jaquarius Thomez Holden, a teenager accused of shooting to death his mother, had a trial date tentatively set for Dec. 9. (See Page A3).
Hobgood also heard updates on murder cases involving Darius Montrael “Gang” Benson, LaJohn Laquan Champion, Darnell Thomas Macon and LaMichael Grant.
Hobgood agreed to work with Sam Currin, the district attorney, on providing further status hearings as an ongoing project to move the heavy caseload in Vance County toward jury trials as needed.
Despite vacation plans for officers of the court on both sides, limited time with a client due to state bar discipline against Steven B. DeCillis and other issues, progress was made.
Benson is charged in the Aug. 4, 2012, shooting of 50-year-old Curtis Morton. Prosecutors acknowledged a Rule 24 hearing for trying the case as a capital crime had not been held but said Thursday they will not seek the death penalty.
A plea offer is on hold due to a federal case against Benson, who is represented by David Waters. There were also questions about discovery.
Hobgood set a July 7, 2014, trial date.
Champion and Macon will be tried separately for the Oct. 20, 2012, shooting death of Gregory Welfare of Raleigh.
Champion, represented by Boyd Sturges, is scheduled for trial March 24.
Macon, represented by Phoebe Dee, is tentatively set for trial Aug. 11.
Dee’s request for a bond hearing Thursday was denied in accordance with the Victim’s Right Act. The victim’s mother lives in New Jersey and was not present Thursday.
A bond hearing is scheduled for Dec. 9.
Both cases have involvement of the State Bureau of Investigation crime lab and await return of results.
Because of a personal relationship between a member of Sturges’ staff and an SBI lab technician, disclosed by Sturgis, an order by Hobgood places a restriction on that technician from handling evidence in the case.
Grant gained the representation of Joyce Fisher after DeCillis was restricted in August. Grant is accused of killing Avone Fouch on March 12, 2012. Fisher is seeking additional discovery items.
Hobgood agreed to hold the status of the Grant case open for review during a second round of murder case status hearings scheduled for the week of Feb. 14.
Grant’s bond was lowered to $150,000 after family members could not meet a $250,000 bond.
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