06/17/05 — Brown wants off death row

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Brown wants off death row

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on June 17, 2005 1:45 PM

Paul Anthony Brown, who was sentenced to death for murdering his former girlfriend and a toddler in her care in 1996 in Goldsboro, wants to get off death row.

Judge Howard Manning, who conducted Brown's trial in 1998 and his sentencing hearing in 2000, held a two-day hearing this week in Wayne County Superior Court on Brown's motion for relief.

Brown's appellate lawyers contend that Manning erred in bifurcating, or dividing, the trial in two parts, and that his trial lawyers did not provide enough mitigating evidence that would have swayed the jury into rendering a life sentence.

Manning did not rule on the motion after testimony from Brown's relatives about a dysfunctional family life, a psychiatrist and a prison consultant. He did not indicate on when he would decide. If decides there were no errors, then Brown can appeal to the N.C. Court of Appeals.

The bottom line, Manning said during psychiatrist Dr. Holly Rodgers' testimony, was that Brown had an alcohol dependency, was stressed out from working a full-time job and being a full-time college student and was mad about being kicked out of the victim's Jefferson Court apartment hours before the shootings.

Several times, Manning prodded Brown's lawyers, Elizabeth Hambourger and Kenneth Rose, to ask relevant questions about the defendant's childhood and not ask family members questions about things that happened before Brown was born.

James Aikens, a paid prison consultant and former prison warden and prison commissioner, testified that Brown would not pose a danger in prison. He noted that Brown, now 39, would "always be under the gun" of a maximum security prison.

Aikens admitted to Special Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian McNeill that he knew of Brown's convictions for assaulting a teacher and shooting a man in a street melee in the 1980s. The latter offense was reduced to a misdemeanor charge of possession of a handgun.

McNeill also asked Aikens about his testimony in the 2003 trial of Lynwood Forte, who was sentenced to death for the murder of three people and the rape of three women in Goldsboro. At the time, Aikens said Forte could adjust to prison life.

Five of Brown's relatives testified during the hearing. They were his sister, Sheila Chavis; his mother, Gloria Jean Brown Younger; his grandmother, Mary Brown; his stepbrother, Robert Holmes Jr., and his aunt, Rose Brown.

They all said Paul Brown's father, Robert Holmes, drank excessively, sold drugs, raped his daughters and abused the son's mother.

Ms. Chavis said her mother "was terrified of my father."

But during cross-examination, Ms. Chavis admitted that she had not found out about the murders that her brother had committed until the next year and did not write or call Brown while he was awaiting trial. Then she told McNeill that she was "not a stable person" because she moved around a lot.

Judge Manning had divided the trial between the guilt-and-innocence phase and the penalty phase, because Brown had a pending appeal in Virginia of a 1986 conviction for malicious maiming of a teacher. In that appeal, Brown also claimed that his original lawyers had provided ineffective counsel. If the conviction were upheld, it could be used as an aggravating circumstance for the Wayne County jury to consider in Brown's sentencing. The appeal was denied, and the conviction stood. Virginia authorities testified during the sentencing hearing in Goldsboro.

McNeill argued that Manning "had an inherent right to bifurcate the case." He said members of the original jury could not be reconvened because they were not "death-qualified." They had not been asked their views on the death penalty during their selection. McNeill argued that if a case is returned to the court for a second sentencing hearing, the same jury is not required to hear it.

When the penalty phase was heard two years later, McNeill said Manning properly reconvened a death-qualified jury. At the same time, he said defense lawyers Glenn Barfield and Jean Hollowell of Goldsboro had the opportunity to find new mitigating evidence.

Ms. Hambourger argued that the verdicts were inconsistent with the evidence. She said the first jury had decided that Brown did not intend to kill the child, 18-month-old David Franklin, because it convicted him under the felony murder rule, a murder committed during another serious crime, in this case, the death of Latashonette Cox.

But after new testimony from the child's mother, Jessica Franklin, who said she witnessed the shooting, Ms. Hambourger argued that the sentencing jury did not know that Brown was not guilty of the intentional murder of the child.

McNeill contended that anyone who saw the photographs of the murder scene in Ms. Cox's apartment should have known the baby was in bed with her. But Ms. Hambourger countered that there was no evidence that Brown had threatened the child.