A State’s witness, who was scheduled to testify ahead of a first-degree murder trial in the case of Nashid Porter, was not present to give her testimony in Pender County Superior Court on Thursday.
Porter, 37, of Wallace, has been charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of Brian Theodus Grant at a home on North 30th Street in Wilmington on July 27, 2012.
Porter’s first-degree murder trial was scheduled to get underway June 1 without a key State’s witness, Obediah Hester IV, 27, who was gunned down in Duplin County last November, two months before the trial was originally scheduled. The trial was delayed after Porter was charged with first-degree murder in Hester’s death. Porter was charged with Hester’s death while he was on pre-trial release.
“We are only taking these precautions today in light of what we have already seen from this very defendant and–from natural cause–the demise of another witness. And because we want to ensure that this witness’ testimony is preserved, we are undertaking this today,” District Attorney Ben David said in court on Thursday.
Last week, Superior Court Judge Phyllis Gorham granted a State’s motion to preserve the witness’ testimony through a video recording, according to Assistant District Attorney Connie Jordan.
Capital Public Defender Nora Hargrove, who is representing Porter, objected to the testimony being allowed in court before a judge could rule on Porter’s competency.
In May, Superior Court Judge Kenneth ordered that Porter undergo an emergency mental health evaluation at Central Regional Hospital, a medical prison facility in Butner, after he rejected two plea deals and sought to remove Hargrove from the case.
“I know that competency is presumed, but now it is in question. And…you can’t be tried in any manner if your competency is at issue,” Hargrove said. “In this particular case, Mr. Porter’s competency hasn’t been determined by a judge. And so I think it would be improper for this court to take this testimony.”
Hargrove asked that Crow to overrule Gorham’s ruling in the State’s motion to preserve the witness’ testimony and to hold the testimony until the court could have a hearing on Porter’s competency.
“We are only going to use this…in the event that [the witness] may not be available for trial. We intend to call her when this case comes to trial,” David said.
Crow ruled that the witness be allowed to testify. Since the witness was not present Thursday, the case has been continued to later this month when the State intends to have the witness testify and a to hear the results of Porter’s mental health evaluation.
Prosecutors give notice of another witness
While preparing for the witness to testify, David gave notice of the State’s intention to seek the testimony of another witness in the case.
“Yet another witness is coming forward to point the finger at this defendant as the shooter and killer of Brian Grant in July 2012,” David said to the judge.
On June 1, an officer with the Wilmington Police Department received a call from an attorney representing a federal inmate being housed at the Brunswick County jail, David said. The witness was originally interviewed by Wilmington officers at the scene of Grant’s death, but the witness did not give a detailed statement about the case at the time, David said.
“It may very well be that we have to follow the same procedures as we are intending to with [our witness’] testimony today,” David said.
The District Attorney’s office is withholding the names of the witnesses.
Read previous coverage: