Durham County

Jury to resume deliberations Thursday in trial of man accused of killing UNC professor

Jurors deliberated for about three hours Wednesday without reaching a verdict before adjourning for the day in the murder trial of Troy Arrington.

Deliberations will resume at 9:30 a.m. Thursday at the Orange County Courthouse.

Arrington, 30, of Chapel Hill, is accused of beating UNC professor Feng Liu with a rock during a robbery on July 23, 2014. Liu died the next day.

He has pleaded not guilty.

In his instructions to the jury Wednesday afternoon, Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour said jurors must must decide if Arrington is guilty of first-degree murder on the basis of malice premeditation and deliberation, or the felony murder rule, or both.

Jurors have the option to find Arrington is guilty of second-degree murder on the basis of malice without premeditation and deliberation and second-degree murder under the felony murder rule.

The jury was also instructed to consider a third charge of robbery with a dangerous weapon.

Robbery with a dangerous weapon is the removal of personal property from another person without consent by threatening or endangering their life with a dangerous weapon.

Earlier Wednesday, attorneys made their closing arguments in the case.

Arrington is accused in Liu’s slaying, along with another man, Derick Davis II, 26 of Durham, who is awaiting trial.

Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall, the prosecutor, argued in his summation that Arrington, not Davis, was Liu’s actual killer, the leader of the attack.

Woodall pointed to the fact that Arrington lived in Chapel Hill and Davis in Durham and that it was Arrington who was seen holding a phone to his ear following the robbery, a phone that was recorded to have placed a “zero seconds” long call to 911.

Woodall argued that the 911 call was a ruse, placed as an alibi of sorts, a feigned attempt to call for medical aid for the dying Liu.

Woodall paced in front of the jury holding the rock with which Liu was said to have been killed – a landscape rock about six to eight inches long and four to five inches wide.

Woodall painted a verbal picture of Liu walking down the street with Arrington close behind. He said Arrington picked up the rock and “hit professor Liu in the head” and beat him “again and again” and that’s “premeditation.”

The “fruits of this robbery” – purchases made and items ordered using Liu’s stolen credit cards – were delivered to Arrington’s, not Davis’, home, Woodall said.

“Follow the evidence,” Woodall said. “Follow the evidence, like the defendant following professor Liu that day.”

Orange County Public Defender James Williams told the jury that there simply was not enough evidence to convict Arrington of first-degree murder “without a reasonable doubt.”

“Arrington sits here an innocent person,” Williams said.

Williams argued that Arrington was present at the crime scene but was not the actual killer and that the state could not prove he was. He argued that Davis beat Liu to death.

“This trial is not a referendum on Troy Arrington's character or if you or I would have acted the way he reacted,” Williams said. “What proves without a reasonable doubt that Troy Arrington wielded the weapon that killed Liu?”

There were no witnesses to the slaying.

Williams reminded the jury that blood was found on Davis, not Arrington. But the blood, a spot on Davis’ shirt collar, was Davis’ own blood, not Liu’s.

Williams also said that when Arrington and Davis were arrested, Davis was in possession of a pair of gloves, gloves that were not submitted for crime lab analysis.

“The state would have you speculate about a number of things,” Williams said.

The phone on which the “zero seconds” 911 call was placed was owned by Davis, Williams said, only a picture of Arrington holding the phone links him to that call.

Williams argued that Arrington’s place of residence was irrelevant to the crime, saying there is not a magical wall between Chapel Hill and Durham, that people go back and forth between the two locales all the time.

Williams said that just because Arrington lived in the town where the crime was committed, it did not automatically make him, as Woodall put it, “the ring leader,” Williams said.

“One life has been lost,” Williams said. “Another life is at stake.”

Colin Warren-Hicks: 919-419-6636, @CWarrenHicks