04/17/05 — Defense to take over in murder trial

View Archive

Defense to take over in murder trial

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on April 17, 2005 8:34 AM

The defense will begin its case Monday in Wayne County Superior Court in the first-degree murder trial of two cousins.

Dwight Eugene Sloan, 23, of Decoy Drive, Pikeville, and Kolanda Kay Wooten, 19, of Courtyard Circle are facing charges in connection with the Aug. 24, 2003, fatal shooting of Jamaal Rashaud Pearsall.

An argument over a stolen stereo systemallegedly prompted the deadly confrontation.

The state rested its case Friday after three days of testimony from eyewitnesses, law-enforcement officers and investigators, as well as a doctor who performed the autopsy on Pearsall.

Defense lawyers Geoff Hulse of Goldsboro and Michael Reece of Smithfield asked that the charges be dismissed. Each defendant also is charged with discharge of a weapon into occupied property.

Hulse argued the state offered "no proof" Sloan shot Pearsall. Reece contended Ms. Wooten was in the car when the fatal shot was fired but that she had no knowledge of a weapon or knew what was going to happen.

Assistant District Attorney Matt Delbridge argued the state had presented "ample evidence" of the defendants' guilt. He said Ms. Wooten's operation of her aunt's car made the shooting possible.

Judge John W. Smith of Wilmington quickly denied both defense motions.

Prosecutors allege the shooting stemmed from "bad blood" between Pearsall and the defendants. They met near Pearsall's home on Maple Street. After a shot was fired, Pearsall jumped into a blue Honda, and the defendants followed in a white Pontiac Bonneville, according to prosecutors. They turned left onto Taylor Street and turned left again onto Edgerton Street. A witness said the white car passed the blue car; someone fired a gun; the white car sped off; and blue car with Pearsall crashed into a parked black car across from St. Mary's Catholic Church. Pearsall died at the scene.

Dr. Deborah Radisch, a forensic pathologist from the North Carolina Medical Examiner's Office who performed the autopsy, testified Friday that a gunshot wound to the left upper chest caused Pearsall's death. The bullet, she told Assistant District Attorney Claud Ferguson, struck the heart, a lung and a major artery before lodging in the back. She said death occurred within minutes of impact.

Defense attornies questioned Special Agent Barbara Lewis of the State Bureau of Investigation for two days concerning the typed statements that were generated from her interviews with Sloan and Ms. Wooten.

Ms. Lewis said she did not save her handwritten notes from the interviews because it was not SBI policy at the time. The policy now has been changed. She noted Sloan did not sign or initial the typed copies, but said he accepted her version of what they said.

When Ms. Wooten was interviewed, Ms. Lewis said, she was not a suspect but only a witness. The agent told Reece Ms. Wooten had said Pearsall was going to come by and shoot up her house.

"Did she say she was the mastermind?" Reece asked.

"No," Ms. Lewis replied.

A jury of seven women and five men is expected to get the case later this week.