03/20/14 — Attorneys make opening statements in Leonard Joyner murder trial

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Attorneys make opening statements in Leonard Joyner murder trial

By John Joyce
Published in News on March 20, 2014 1:46 PM


Cpl. Steven Powers, a Goldsboro police crime scene investigator, tells Assistant District Attorney Matt Delbridge about the lengths the suspects allegedly went to in trying to conceal the vehicle in which Kennedy McLaurin was shot and kidnapped.

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Defendant Leonard Joyner acknowledges friends in the courtroom.

Assistant District Attorney Matthew Delbridge took just 3 minutes and 17 seconds in his opening statement Wednesday to sum up for a Wayne County Superior Court jury the last moments of Kennedy McLaurin Jr.'s life.

"He knew he was going to die," he said.

Delbridge said McLaurin, 16, spent his last moments in the "hands of strangers" -- that it was the defendant, Leonard Joyner, who made the decision to take McLaurin's life; that McLaurin heard Joyner make a phone call to an associate and say the words that left no doubt as to what was going to happen.

"Get a shovel," Delbridge said, as he walked back to his chair.

But defense attorney Charles Gurley began his opening statements in the murder trial by denying there even was one.

"This case has never been a murder case," he said. "It was built up to be one."

Gurley said the victim ended up dying by his own gun in the commission of a robbery, and that his client acted in self-defense.

McLaurin pulled the gun on Joyner and two other men inside a car, the attorney said.

The other two men fled the car leaving Joyner, who was wrestling with the victim for the gun, to defend himself.

Gurley said his client pulled McLaurin over the front seat, down to the floor board of the car and the gun went off, leaving McLaurin wounded.

"Roll call," Gurley shouted. "Roll call. Roll call."

Those were the words, he said, that McLaurin yelled to alert fellow gang members something had gone wrong.

He said McLaurin's attempted robbery was a gang initiation, and that more alleged gang members came running to his aid, prompting Joyner to take the wheel of the car and speed off.

The men who were in the car with Joyner, Jerome Butts, 20, and Curtis Ethridge, 19, jumped back into the vehicle as it sped away.

And with that, the first witness was called in a first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping trial that began back in 2012 when a 16-year-old went missing on Bain Street.