Appeals court upholds Minton murder conviction

Jan. 31, 2014 @ 06:29 PM

N.C. Court of Appeals judges upheld the 2012 conviction of Brian Gregory Minton on a first-degree murder charge, turning aside his objections to testimony about his involvement in other crimes.

The objections by and large came too late, or were about matters that had little apparent bearing on the outcome of Minton’s trial, appeals Judge Sam Ervin IV said in a decision joined by Judges Robert N. Hunter Jr. and Mark Davis.

“The trial court’s judgments should remain undisturbed,” Ervin said for a panel that found nothing wrong with Durham Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson’s handling of the Minton trial.

Minton was found guilty by an Orange County jury of orchestrating the death in 2008 of Joshua Bailey. He is serving a life prison sentence without the possibility of parole.

Minton and Bailey were part of a group of people in their teens and 20s who hung out and in some cases committed crimes together.

Prosecutors argued that Minton was the ringleader of the group and ordered Bailey killed after becoming suspicious that he was an informer for the police.

The suspicion initially fell on another man, Matthew Alan Johnson, who actually shot and killed Bailey. He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and is serving a prison sentence of up to 30 years.

Minton’s appellate lawyer, Franklin Wells, argued that Orange-Chatham District Attorney Jim Woodall and another prosecutor bolstered a weak case with inadmissible character evidence.

Wells challenged testimony concerning a Greensboro home invasion, a beating of Johnson that occurred in a Pittsboro garage and the use of a police report that named Minton the suspect in a break-in.

Lawyers from state Attorney General Roy Cooper’s office countered that the testimony addressed motive, or in the case of the police report merely described how Orange County Sheriff’s Office investigators went about piecing together the case.

Moreover, they said, it was “undisputed” that Minton initiated the fatal confrontation, provided the weapons, gave the orders and helped hide Bailey’s body.

Cooper’s staff additionally noted that Hudson, who handled the case as a visiting judge, had called the case “as cold-blooded a killing” as he’d ever seen.

“None of [Minton’s] instant complaints have any bearing on the overwhelming weight of this evidence,” Assistant Attorney General Derrick Mertz told appeals judges.

Ervin and his colleagues stopped short of adopting all the attorney general’s suggestions for deciding the case.

But they sided with Cooper’s staff in holding that Minton’s trial lawyer, James Glover, hadn’t objected to some testimony about the Greensboro home invasion that duplicated what Wells challenged.

Glover and Minton also “failed to preserve” an objection to the testimony about the beating of Johnson in the Pittsboro garage, Ervin said.

And even if Hudson had erred by allowing discussion of the break-in report, its use appeared “harmless beyond a reasonable doubt,” Ervin said, holding it was unlikely to have influenced the outcome of the trial.

Ervin, Hunter Jr. and Davis also rejected an argument from Wells that Hudson had erred by allowing two people to testify that they’d been afraid of Minton.

Their testimony on the point “was relevant” in explaining why one had initially lied to investigators, and why the other had been slow to tell them what she knew about Bailey’s death, the judges said.

The appeals panel included two Democrats in Ervin and Davis and a Republican in Hunter Jr.