A judge has ruled that a Wilmington man charged with murder in the shooting death of a 32-year-old man in July 2012 is competent to stand trial in May.
Nashid Porter, 37, of Wallace, appeared in Pender County Superior Court last week for a competency hearing. Superior Court Judge Kenneth Crow found Porter competent to stand trial on a first-degree murder charge in connection with the death of 32-year-old Brian Theodus Grant, who was fatally shot on July 27, 2012 in Wilmington.
A judge granted a defense motion to change venue, which moved the case from New Hanover to Pender County, after a key witness scheduled to testify against Porter was gunned down in November 2014. Porter, who at the time was free on pre-trial release, has since been charged with murder in the witness’ death in Duplin County. Prosecutors there have indicated they will seek the death penalty.
A May 31, 2016, trial date has been set for the 2012 murder charge in Pender County Superior Court, according to Samantha Dooies, assistant to New Hanover County District Attorney Ben David. This is the third trial date scheduled in the case.
Porter was originally scheduled for a trial in January, which was delayed by the witness’ murder and change of venue. A second trial date was set for June, but the case was continued when Crow ordered Porter to undergo the mental health evaluation that was the topic of last week’s hearing. Crow’s order came after Porter rejected a plea deal and sought to remove the capital defense attorney from his case.
In that deal, the State required Porter to plead guilty to both murder cases in exchange for two life sentences without the possibility of parole, according to Assistant District Attorney Connie Jordan.
The judge has since allowed the public defender to withdraw. Chief Public Defender Jennifer Harjo was appointed to take over the case, but Dooies said Porter is seeking for her removal as well. Another hearing to address Porter’s representation issue has been scheduled for Jan. 25.
The victim in the 2012 killing, Brian Theodus Grant of Wilmington, was found shot to death in the doorway of a home in the 900 block of North 30th Street, according to Wilmington Police Department Spokeswoman Cathryn Lindsay. Along with a first-degree murder charge, Porter is charged with discharging a firearm into an occupied dwelling.
In November 2014, two months before Porter’s trial was to begin in the Grant case, 27-year-old Obediah Hester IV was killed in Duplin County. Prosecutors said Hester was a key witness in the Grant case when he was shot 11 times and struck with a cinder block. Before he was shot, Hester provided videotaped testimony in the Grant case and prosecutors are attempting to introduce that at Porter’s trial.
Prosecutors expect the judge will rule on the admissibility of Hester’s video testimony when the trial begins in May 2016.
A second witness for the state has also testified ahead of Porter’s trial. The witness — whom prosecutors have asked to remain anonymous until trial for her safety — provided her testimony during a June hearing.
“We requested that we be allowed to take the testimony of a witness in the case and allow [the public defender] to cross examine [the witness] to use that testimony if we need it at a later date,” Jordan said after the hearing.
If the witness is able to testify in person during Porter’s first-degree murder trial, the video testimony may not be needed, Jordan said.
Porter was indicted Nov. 30 by a Duplin County grand jury on a charge of first-degree murder in connection with Hester’s death, according to Assistant District Attorney Mike Maultsby. The state has since filed a motion for a Rule 24 hearing in the case. That hearing, in which the State seeks to try the defendant for his life, is scheduled for Jan. 11, 2016 in Duplin County Superior Court.
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