The trial of a North Carolina murder defendant was abruptly halted before jury selection was even over after prosecutors disclosed information that seemed to indicate the defendant was trying to arrange for some sort of harm to come to the judge in his case.
The defendant was recorded during a phone call at the jail saying, “I need him gone.” He then spelled the judge’s complete name for the other person. Given the circumstances, the judge was naturally concerned. Jurors and potential jurors were kept away from the courtroom while a hearing was held, and the full call was played in court.
Initially, the defense suggested that the judge recuse himself from the case so that a new judge could take over — fearing that the defendant couldn’t get a fair trial after rattling the judge’s nerves. However, it came to light that the defendant was actually asking his mother to contact a Voodoo healer in Raleigh and others to use prayer against principals involved in the case — rather than directly threatening the justice with physical harm. The judge elected to stay on the case, saying that he felt a mistrial wasn’t warranted.
There are a couple of important lessons for defendants here.
First, your calls from jail are being recorded. This is always disclosed to inmates — yet many continue to say things that could get them into a lot more trouble or hurt their cases. Usually, inmates fool themselves into believing that prosecutors and guards don’t have the time to listen to every call. They can — and do — when it’s important.
Second, while spiritualism and prayer are useful in just about any situation, there are times when it’s wiser to put your trust in more mundane things — like an experienced criminal attorney who can provide you with a solid, aggressive defense, instead.