03/27/14 — Live from the courtroom -- Joyner on trial

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Live from the courtroom -- Joyner on trial

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on March 27, 2014 9:35 AM

Follow all the action unfolding in Courtroom No. 1, as the state attempts to convince a Wayne County jury that Leonard Eugene Joyner is guilty of first-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping in connection with the 2012 death of 16-year-old Kennedy McLaurin Jr.

Joyner on trial, Day 7:

9:33 a.m. -- Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Arnold Jones is still conducting the charge conference with Assistant District Attorney Matthew Delbridge and defense attorney Charles Gurley. The jury is not in the courtroom and will enter only after this formality is completed.

9:38 a.m. -- Morning break.

9:49 a.m. -- After the short break, Jones is back in the courtroom. Once he is done finalizing the paperwork that will be delivered to the jury upon completion of closing arguments, court will be back in session.

10:07 a.m. -- Court is back in session. Jones is printing out copies of the revised jury instructions and charge sheets for the attorneys to review.

10:08 a.m. -- The state and defense are reviewing the document.

10:18 a.m. -- The charge conference has ended and Jones has called for the jury. When the jury is back in the courtroom, closing arguments will begin and proceed in the following order:

1) Assistant District Attorney Matthew Delbridge

2) Defense attorney Charles Gurley

3) Assistant District Attorney Matthew Delbridge (rebuttal)

10:19 a.m. -- The jury is in its box.

10:20 a.m. -- Delbridge begins. (Note: Complete details from this argument will appear in Friday's News-Argus, but we will provide some highlights here)

"You don't need to hit a man in the head with a shovel if he's already dead," he said.

Delbridge thanked the jury for its "willingness to be on this case."

"I told you it wasn't gonna be easy," he said.

"I want to try to help you," he said.

"You've got all this stuff, this tornado of information," he said.

"It's not what Leonard Joyner did. It's not," Delbridge said. "It's what they did. It's what the group did. That's gonna help you."

"This is a jury of four people who were determining the penalty they were going to impose on Kennedy McLaurin," he said.

All he had to prove, he said, was that a crime was committed.

Delbridge said there are "1,000" unknowns in the case.

"That is not what we have to prove," he said.

Delbridge is recapping the state's case.

"I wasn't there. I swear I wasn't there," Delbridge said, imitating Joyner. "Look how sincere I am."

He said that the first interview with Jerome Butts was critical, because it was the only one from any of the suspects that was "untainted."

And it revealed, he said, that McLaurin was still alive when the car left Kevin Smith's house and drove to the first burial site.

"He was talkin' (expletive)," Delbridge said. "He was still talkin' (expletive)."

He is now listing the evidence recovered from the first burial site.

Delbridge said he knew putting the other suspects on the stand was "a risk."

"Nobody has told the same thing the same way all the time," he said.

But it was the things the admitted about themselves, he said, that the jury should focus on -- because "why would someone lie to make themselves look worse."

Delbridge is now playing a clip of Joyner's interview with Bevell.

11:16 a.m. -- Gurley begins (Note: Complete details from this argument will appear in Friday's News-Argus, but we will provide some highlights here)

Gurley is thanking the jury for their service.

"Any time there is a lost life, it's not a good thing," he said.

Gurley is telling the jury that the statement Delbridge just showed was taken after Joyner had been handcuffed and dragged down to the Goldsboro Police Department.

He compared the state's case to a movie director "telling a story."

"When you plant a bad seed and it grows into a tree and its poisoned, the fruit that's gonna grow on that tree is poisoned," Gurley said.

He said that Antonio "Mel" King gave McLaurin the gun and told him to rob Joyner, Ethridge and Butts.

"That's how this case started -- armed robbery with bullets in the chamber," Gurley said.

"You only have five pints of blood in your heart," he said. 

"(The medical examiner) couldn't tell you anything except he was shot in the heart," Gurley said. 

"Nobody in that vehicle had a weapon except for the victim in this case," he said.

"Do you think that that young man wanted to go to that street and make the 'live or die' decision that day?" Gurley asked. "Really?"

He is showing the jury, on a large poster board, what the "presumption of innocence" is.

"This was a robbery that went bad," he said. "That's all it is."

"Not everybody who is accused is guilty," Gurley said. "That's why they built this courthouse."

"This case has never been nuthin' but a self-defense case," he said.

Gurley characterized the state's case as a "magic show."

He asked the jury to look at Joyner.

"He put his hand on the Bible and told you what happened," Gurley said.

12:09 p.m. -- Delbridge begins his rebuttal (Note: Complete details from this argument will appear in Friday's News-Argus, but we will provide some highlights here)

He said, "we know three people wouldn't say he was still alive when he wasn't, because they had nothing to gain."

Delbridge said there was no evidence to support Gurley's claim that both shots were fired in the car -- so the notion the McLaurin must have bled out before he got to the first burial site is not based on fact.

"Jurors vote with their hearts as much as they vote with their minds," Delbridge said.

"You know, Mr. Gurley quoted President Kennedy," he said. "I don't want to quote Kennedy, I want to show you Kennedy."

He is showing the jurors pictures from the autopsy and of the grave site.

"Is that self-defense?"

12:23 p.m. -- Break. Court will resume at 12:40 p.m. When court resumes, Jones will charge the jury and deliberations will begin.

1:30 p.m. -- The jury has selected a foreman and deliberations will begin at 2:30 p.m. This is our last post from "Live from the Courtroom," but we will break the verdict on www.NewsArgus.com as soon as it is delivered.