No death penalty for Southpoint murder suspects

Mar. 06, 2013 @ 06:21 PM

The Durham County District Attorney will not seek the death penalty against three men charged in the shooting death of a 24-year-old Greensboro man near the Streets at Southpoint last month.

Monquell Davis, 19, Deshario Mitchell, 18, and Kadeem Johnson, 18, all of Durham, are each charged with the first-degree murder of Brian Christopher Keys, 24, of Greensboro on Feb. 9 at the crowded shopping area.

The three men appeared in Durham County Criminal Superior Court on Wednesday morning.

Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Bedford told Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson that District Attorney Leon Stanback would not seek the death penalty against any of the defendants because the case does not meet the statutory requirements.

For a murder to be a capital case, there must be an aggravating factor, such as another felony including armed robbery or a kidnapping, or the murder must be especially atrocious, heinous or cruel.

The three teens were being held without bond. At the hearing Wednesday, Davis’ attorney, Rebecca Wiggins, told Hudson that Davis’ family was hoping the judge would reduce his bond to somewhere between $50,000 and $100,000.

Davis had a job before he was arrested and has strong family support, Wiggins said. He has a girlfriend who is pregnant. If he could post bond, she said, he would be able to stay with his family.

Davis’ uncle stood to speak and told Hudson that Davis is a young man from a good family.

“What we are hoping is that bond would be set and that he could come home, attend church and be surrounded by the love by his family, his loved ones and have the support that he needs, and someone that could talk to him and give him the guidance that he needs,” the uncle said.

The uncle suggested that perhaps Davis could be released on electronic house arrest.

Davis’ father also spoke, saying that his son was not a bad child.

“He’s not the best, but he’s definitely far from the worst,” his father said. “He’s 19-years-old. He gets into minimal trouble. He’s very respectful to everyone, pretty much.”

Both the father and the uncle introduced themselves before they spoke, but from the gallery, it was difficult to hear their names. Later, they declined to give their names to reporters.

Bedford told the judge that Davis was the driver of the car that fled the scene after the shooting, which occurred near World Market at 6807 Fayetteville Rd.

“He hit another vehicle, causing it to turn over; then he attempted to flee on foot,” she said.

Someone was injured in the car that flipped over, she added.

The evidence is overwhelming that the three suspects set up Keys, Bedford said. Keys had a job, but was supplementing his income by selling marijuana, she said.

He had made arrangements to sell marijuana to the teens and was supposed to meet them in the parking lot. Although they had no money when they arrived, she said, they had guns.

Police found two guns and are waiting on gunshot residue tests to get a better idea who did the shooting, Bedford said.

She suggested a bond of $2 million.

Wiggins said she had only received a limited amount of discovery from the state, but she suggested that it may have been Keys who was setting people up.

Keys had a rider in his car, and after the two of them ate lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings, Keys asked the friend to sit in the back seat while they drove around looking for Davis’s car.

“The question is: whom was trying to set up whom?” she said.

Hudson set Davis’s bond at $2 million.

The next defendant, Mitchell, also received a $2 million bond at his attorney’s request.

Johnson’s attorney was in federal court and did not appear with his client Wednesday, so Johnson remains in jail without bond. Johnson is scheduled to appear in court again on March 18, so his bond could be addressed at that hearing, Bedford said.

After the hearing, Bedford said that Keys was alone when he was shot. He had driven around the parking lot, couldn’t find a space, and so he parked in a handicapped space and told his friend to stay in the car.

Keys walked away, and he was shot in another area of the parking lot at Davis’s car, she said. The friend was not aware that Keys had been shot until he saw the police cars arriving at the scene, she said. He attempted to give aid to Keys and cooperated with police, she said.

Keys’ family did not attend the hearing because they went to Virginia to grieve with their extended family, Bedford said.