A judge ruled that a first-degree murder suspect must undergo a mental health evaluation after he rejected two plea deals and sought to remove his attorney from the case on Thursday.
The first-degree murder trial of 37-year-old Nashid Porter, of Wallace, was scheduled to get underway Monday without a key State’s witness, who was gunned down last November two months before the trial was originally scheduled.
Porter has been charged with first-degree murder and discharging a firearm into an occupied dwelling in the death of Brian Theodus Grant, 32, at a home on North 30th Street in Wilmington on July 27, 2012.
Porter’s trial was originally scheduled on Jan. 20 in New Hanover County Superior Court. But the trial was delayed after Porter was charged with first-degree murder in the November 2014 shooting death of Obediah Hester IV, 27, who was expected to testify as a State’s witness in Porter’s murder trial. Porter was out of jail on pre-trial release at the time of Hester’s death.
During a hearing Thursday in Pender County Superior Court, Porter rejected a plea deal from the State that would have required him to plead guilty to both murders for two life sentences without the possibility of parole, according to Assistant District Attorney Connie Jordan.
Porter’s rejection of the plea deal means the death penalty could be sought in Hester’s death if the State were to pursue it. According to Jordan, Duplin County District Attorney Ernie Lee indicated he would try Porter capitally in Hester’s death. The State is not pursuing the death penalty in Grant’s murder.
Porter also sought to have his attorney–capital public defender Nora Hargrove–removed from the case. Superior Court Judge Kenneth Crow said he would rule on Porter’s request to remove Hargrove at a later hearing. Crow ordered that Porter undergo an emergency mental health evaluation at Central Regional Hospital, a medical prison facility in Butner.
Pending the evaluation, Porter could be in court June 18. If the results of the evaluation are not complete by then or if Porter is deemed unfit to proceed, the case will be continued, according Jordan.
Crow has yet to rule on the admissibility of evidence argued during a hearing in January.
According to court testimony during an evidentiary hearing in Pender County on Jan. 27, Hester was shot 11 times and struck with a cinder block two months before he was set to take the stand a witness. In that hearing, the State sought to introduce Hester’s previous video testimony and evidence of Hester’s murder in the upcoming trial in which Porter is accused of killing Grant, according to District Attorney Ben David.
Hargrove objected to evidence of Hester’s murder being admitted into trial, describing the corroborating testimony from witnesses in the hearing as hearsay. After nearly a full day of testimony, Crow ruled that additional arguments about the admissibility of the evidence will be heard before the trial gets underway.
Porter is scheduled to appear in Duplin County District Court on June 12 to face the murder charge in Hester’s death and several felony drug charges, including trafficking in cocaine.
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Christina Haley is a crime and courts reporter for Port City Daily. Reach her at (910) 772-6337 or firstname.lastname@example.org.