Deputies Correct Prosecutor's Mistaken Comment in Court
An incorrect statement by an assistant district attorney in a first-degree murder hearing forced Moore County sheriff's investigators to visit the judge to set the record straight.
The case involves a first-degree murder charge against Daniel Keith Britt, who is accused in the 2011 shooting death of Jimmy Lee Britt outside his home in the northern Moore community of Spies.
Last week, defense attorney Bruce Cunningham sought a delay in the Feb. 4 trial start, and Chief Assistant District Attorney Peter Strickland initially did not oppose it.
Cunningham was contending the defense would need time to request their own experts once they received state crime lab reports from state experts. Strickland was explaining that DNA evidence was still under review and that a firearm seized at the scene had not yet been assigned to an expert.
"When our office called two weeks ago, we found there was a firearm that was seized but not turned over to the lab," Strickland had said to Superior Court Judge James Webb during last week's hearing. "The one firearm that had been submitted had not been assigned to an analyst."
But Strickland was mistaken about that. All firearms taken by deputies had in fact been duly processed and sent to the state lab for study.
"We did our job," Sheriff Lane Carter said on Monday. "That's all I have to say about it."
There were no investigators from their department in court last Wednesday when the mistaken statement was made, according to Maj. Ronnie Fields with the Sheriff's Office. He lamented not having been told that matters from the Britt case would be taken up in court that day.
While Britt was on the Superior Court calendar, so were nine other murder cases. Such cases are routinely scheduled as "placeholders" in case motions need to be considered.
After hearing that the court had been erroneously advised that one of the firearms had not been submitted, Fields and Lt. Bill Mackey went into court later in the week to tell Webb about the mistake.
In accordance with judicial ethics, Webb won't comment on what he said to them.
Carter has since instructed his deputies not to discuss their conference at the bench.
According to District Attorney Maureen Krueger, incorrect information resulted from a hallway conversation with one of the investigators.
"This was a mistake," she said. "We already sent the defense a letter saying this was a miscommunication, and here is how it happened. We realized that this happened, that there was a miscommunication about the firearm in question, and we have immediately apprised the Sheriff's Department and the attorneys involved of the misinformation."
Contact John Chappell at (910) 783-5841 or jfchappell @gmail.com.
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