Appeals Court Upholds Cop Killer's Sentence
The man who gunned down a Southern Pines police officer has lost his appeal.
The state Court of Appeals has turned down Kerry L. Marston and affirmed his May 26, 2011, resentencing on charges related to the 1991 murder of Detective Ed Harris.
Marston was already serving a life sentence for first-degree murder but had appealed the 60 additional years he received at his original trial for related offenses. The case went back and forth in the courts, with challenges heard at every level, including the Supreme Court of North Carolina.
His lawyers appealed a judge’s decision last year, but were turned down by the Court of Appeals in a July 3 opinion.
At that hearing, Hoke County’s high-ceilinged Superior Court had been packed with police officers, deputies, detectives and investigators from many law enforcement agencies there to support their fallen fellow officer and his family.
Again they heard how Harris got up from the dinner table to see who was at the front door. Just as he turned the knob to open it, bullets smashed through storm-door glass and screen wire ripping into his body.
“Harris’ wife, sitting in the family’s living room, had one of her fingers severed by a stray bullet,” the appeals court summary says. “Detective Harris died en route to the hospital. Following the shooting, defendant claimed that he ‘got him,’ referring to Detective Harris, and even bragged about it the next day.”
Marston did not appeal his first-degree murder conviction or life sentence. Old rules in effect in 1991 allow parole and give credit for “good time” that could one day have meant Marston’s release. He was fighting additional consecutive sentences on related charges. Two successful appeals had sent the case back to its original court. On the bench last May sat Judge B. Craig Ellis, the same judge who had presided at the trial.
The three-judge appellate panel affirmed the decision Ellis made that day when he again added 60 years to Marston’s life sentence, the same he’d handed Marston two decades earlier at trial, though based on different factors.
The issues involved had to do with balancing aggravating and mitigating factors and what authority a judge has when considering them. The 2011 hearing was “de novo,” meaning Ellis was taking a fresh look as if those factors had never been weighed before.
This time only one aggravating factor was offered by the state, but Ellis weighed it more heavily than any defense mitigating factors, an issue raised in the unsuccessful appeal.
The Court of Appeals said “the trial court did not abuse its discretion in attaching more weight to the one aggravating factor over the mitigating factors and sentencing defendant to consecutive terms greater than the presumptive range.”
Ellis once more ordered Marston serve 30 years for assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury for wounding Judy Harris, discharging a weapon into an occupied building, and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder.
Again, he had ordered all sentences to run consecutively to each other and to Marston’s life sentence.
Contact John Chappell at (910) 783-5841 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
More like this story