09/30/11 — Barbour gets life for 2009 murder

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Barbour gets life for 2009 murder

By Gary Popp
Published in News on September 30, 2011 1:46 PM

Steven Lynn Barbour was sentenced to life in prison without parole Thursday after a jury in Wayne County Superior Court found him guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Jamie Lee Hinson.

Hinson, 35, was found beaten to death on the morning of Dec. 3, 2009, in Evergreen Memorial Cemetery on U.S. 70 West.

Jurors deliberated for nearly 90 minutes into the late afternoon on the fourth day of the trial before reaching a verdict.

Barbour, 31, maintained a steady expression as the verdict was read at 5:45 p.m.

He also declined an opportunity to comment to those in the courtroom before being returned to the Wayne County Jail.

The silence that filled the room after the sentencing was broken by the sound of a bailiff's handcuffs jingling from his belt, then clicking into place around Barbour's wrists.

Seated at the witness stand earlier in the day, Barbour resolutely responded, "Absolutely, not," when his attorney Steven Fisher of Greenville, asked him if he killed Hinson.

Two others also have been charged in Hinson's death: Joseph Lanier, 23, and Barbour's girlfriend, Tara Sparks, 30.

Ms. Sparks has accepted a plea deal from the state for her testimony. Both she and Lanier remain in the Wayne County Jail, awaiting their trials.

As each of the three suspects testified during the trial, it became clear that at one point in the early hours of Dec. 3, Barbour, Lanier and Hinson were at the cemetery together and that Ms. Sparks, who Lanier previously told authorities was at the graveyard, was not with the men when Hinson was killed.

Throughout the trial, Barbour steadfastly held the position that he had no involvement in killing Hinson, a man that he had known for nearly 15 years, but rather attempted to help him as Lanier beat him with a metal, police-style baton.

Both men provided contrary accounts of who brought the weapon to the scene and who used it to beat Hinson to death.

Barbour was also found guilty on a second charge of robbery with a dangerous weapon, a charge that stems from Hinson having his wallet, cell phone and keys taken from him.

During his lengthy closing argument, Fisher accused investigators of deciding early on that Barbour was guilty and that a case was unjustly crafted to convict his client. Fisher also spent time trying to discredit Ms. Sparks' testimony, which included Barbour admitting his role in the murder.

The defense also went after Lanier by bringing in an orange-clad, barely coherent inmate to the witness stand to testify of Lanier's admission of attempting to frame Barbour and Ms. Sparks for the murder he committed.

On the last day of the trial, Assistant District Attorney Matt Delbridge continued to argue that Barbour acted out of jealousy toward Hinson and love of Ms. Sparks when he committed the murder.

He claimed Hinson's aggressive sexual advances toward Ms. Sparks in the parking lot of Dolls Palace, a Selma nightclub, nearly a month before Hinson was killed, began to spoil the relationship of the couple who had plans to marry and eventually drove Barbour into a murderous frame of mind.

Delbridge gave a gripping closing argument, once forcefully pounding his open hand on a wooden partition directly in front of the jurors to mimic the lethal blows Hinson received to his head and body moments before taking his last breath.

Guilford County Resident Superior Court Judge Stuart Albright presided over the trial.

Before adjourning the case, Albright told the family and friends of Hinson, most of whom attended every day of the trial, that he hoped they recognized how hard Delbridge worked throughout the case.

"He is one of the finest district attorneys I have had the opportunity to work with," Albright said.