08/24/05 — Eyewitness identification of shooter rejected

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Eyewitness identification of shooter rejected

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on August 24, 2005 1:48 PM

An eyewitness' identification of the alleged killer of a man outside a Goldsboro night club was not allowed Tuesday in the murder trial of Leandren Andre Wilson.

Judge Jay D. Hockenbury said the witness, Antoinette Saul, the victim's aunt, could not make an independent identification of Wilson and ordered the jury to disregard that part of her testimony.

Defense lawyer Louis Jordan had objected to Ms. Saul's testimony, saying she had not identified Wilson or picked him from a lineup during interviews with Goldsboro police.

The victim, 26-year-old Corey Lavon Grantham of Nor Am Road, Pikeville, was shot to death at about 3 a.m. July 11, 2004, near Corporate Drive and Clingman Street, soon after the Club Paradise had closed. Wilson, 28, is charged with first-degree murder but would not face the death penalty if convicted.

Ms. Saul testified that she saw Grantham "fussing" with another man in the street near the nightclub. She said she asked Grantham to leave, but he told her that it was nothing he could not take care of himself. At that point she said she saw a person she described as a small black man say "give me my gun" and then fire three shots. Grantham died almost instantly.

With the jury absent, Ms. Saul again described the shooter and then said she ran to the victim and grabbed his hand. She said the shooter jumped into a white car and drove off. She admitted she never saw the shooter's face.

Ms. Saul was expected to complete her testimony today.

Assistant District Attorney Jan Kroboth said later that at least one other eyewitness -- and possibly more -- could identify Wilson as the shooter. She said she also had other witnesses who would implicate Wilson.

Jordan called for a mistrial, but Hockenbury deferred a ruling on the motion until the end of the state's case because, the Wilmington judge said, the state had other possible eyewitnesses.

Later, when Mrs. Kroboth tried to introduce a photograph of the victim, Jordan objected, calling it "inflammatory." Mrs. Kroboth argued that the photo showed how Grantham looked and said she had about six other photos of him. She said Jordan had seen the photos for weeks. Hockenbury said he would look at the photos today in chambers and rule on their admissibility as evidence.

The day's only other witness, the victim's mother, Gloria Moore, testified she asked her son -- who had been released from prison about five months earlier -- not to go to the night club. She said he said he was going only to the parking lot.

"I don't understand why this happened," she said. Then as her voice got louder, she added, "Why did my son have to be murdered for something that wasn't called for?" She left the witness stand in tears.

In her opening statements, Mrs. Kroboth said Grantham had ridden with another man to the night club and that the other man had argued with Wilson. Grantham, she said, tried to stop the argument.

Jordan said in his opening statement that at least 20 other rounds fired from guns were recovered at the scene. He said another witness could not identify Wilson as the shooter. He said Grantham was shot at a downward angle and noted that Wilson is a small man, not much more than 5-feet tall.

A jury of seven men and five women are hearing the case. There are three alternate jurors, two men and a woman.