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03/27/14 — Defendant says he was scared, acted to protect himself

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Defendant says he was scared, acted to protect himself

By John Joyce
Published in News on March 27, 2014 1:46 PM

News-Argus/STEVE HERRING

Assistant District Attorney Matt Delbridge, left, questions Leonard Joyner about the gun that was used in the death of Kennedy McLaurin during testimony Wednesday in Wayne County Superior Court. Lawyers for both sides in Joyner's murder trial were to make closing arguments today and the jury was expected to get the case.

Kennedy McLaurin Jr. died by his own hand.

And it was the fear of nobody believing that fact that prompted Leonard Eugene Joyner to flee the scene of a deadly shooting -- with the 16-year-old's body still in the car he was driving.

That is the story the defendant in a first-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping case told a Wayne County jury Wednesday afternoon.

In the beginning, Joyner's account of what happened Sept. 9, 2012, mirrored the testimony delivered by Curtis Ethridge, Kevin Smith and Jerome Butts -- the other three men charged by the Goldsboro Police Department in connection with McLaurin's death.

Ethridge, Butts and Joyner, in pursuit of "very potent" marijuana, traveled to Bain Street to meet up with a dealer associated with Antonio "Mel" Smith.

But Joyner's version of just what unfolded after McLaurin walked up to the car was far different from versions the jury heard earlier this week.

The defendant said McLaurin pulled out a gun moments after he got into the car -- that Ethridge and Butts jumped out and it was only after he began wrestling for the firearm and called for Butts to get back into the vehicle to hold McLaurin down that the first shot went off.

At that point, Joyner told the court that McLaurin declared, "Ah. I shot myself."

Ethridge then got back into the car and Joyner, after hearing McLaurin shout, "Roll call," and seeing "two or three guys coming through the cut," drove away.

He told the court he planned to go to the GPD, but that when they got in front of Goldsboro High School, a second shot was fired.

"After the second shot, he wasn't saying anything," Joyner said. "I believe he was dead."

At that point, any notion of going to police went out the window, the defendant said.

"I panicked," Joyner said. "We had drugs on us. Plus a dead guy. I was scared. I wasn't really thinking."

So he drove back to Smith's house and got out of the car -- fleeing the scene on his bicycle.

"Why did you ride off?" defense attorney Charles Gurley asked.

"Because I didn't want to have anything to do with it," Joyner replied.

"Anything to do with what?" Gurley asked.

"Whatever they were about to do," he said.

Assistant District Attorney Matthew Delbridge wasn't convinced.

During cross-examination, he asked Joyner to re-enact, with his help, how he was driving and holding the gun at the same time.

And Delbridge asked why, after Goldsboro police Det. Dwayne Bevell told him about self-defense, he chose to lie.

"I was scared," Joyner told the court. "I was trying to save myself."

"You didn't look too ... upset," Delbridge said, adding that the video of his initial interview with Bevell shows the young man rapping while he waited for the detective to enter the room.

"Just passing time," Joyner replied.

Both the state and defense rested their respective cases Wednesday.

Closing arguments were scheduled to begin this morning and once they are concluded, the case will be turned over to the jury.