My Turn, Your Turn: Mixed reactions to the Pierce verdict - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

My Turn, Your Turn: Mixed reactions to the Pierce verdict

Posted: Updated: May 20, 2010 03:56 PM EDT

By Gary McNair - bio|email

I have to admit that I was caught off guard by some of the reaction to the guilty verdict in the Anthony Pierce trial.  A few people even posted flyers asking for his freedom.  

Pierce was the driver of a car that fled from police last year.  The police chase contributed to the car crash and death of Wilmington Police Officer Richard Matthews. Earlier this month a jury held Pierce responsible for that death, convicting him of second degree murder. 

Some people think the law that allowed for Pierce to be convicted only applies when there is a death of a police officer.  That is definitely not the case.  I'm not an attorney, but I've researched this and learned that second degree murder is a killing with malice – be it citizen or police officer.  And malice is implied if a person intentionally engages in reckless conduct that is inherently dangerous to human life.   

It's important to note that Pierce was not charged with Murder by the police.  He was indicted by a grand jury of citizens who studied the facts and the law.  

The people who put up the posters say the verdict is unfair, but if you'll take the time to go to read the news release and legal brief from District Attorney Ben David, I think you'll agree the jury got it right.  

Second degree murder has been charged with implied malice for crimes like drag racing, Russian roulette and DWIs where the defendant has a prior DWI.  Fleeing from police is certainly reckless conduct, and that act displays an intentional disregard for the rights and safety of others.  That's exactly what Mr. Pierce did. 

Why is this important?  Hopefully this murder conviction might just cause someone else to think a little before trying the same stunt and causing another innocent person to be killed. 

That's my turn.  Now it's your turn.  To comment on this segment, or anything else, email me at yourturn@wect.com.


Emailed comments from viewers:

I agree with your comments completely.  The Grand Jury did a great job!  This loser broke many laws and the police officers did their jobs, including Matthews.  These losers are endangering lives everyday, not only with their drug dealing, but also with not following the law and not pulling over and stopping when a police officer is trying to stop him.  Maybe, our criminals will think twice before running from the police in the future, if they understand that they are responsible for any deaths that may occur with other officers coming as back up, or accidents that may happen, etc.  The bottom line is that Richard Matthews would still be alive today had he not been responding to his fellow officers call for back up.

We must decrease the crime in our area (which is extremely high for the size of Wilmington).  This is a great start!  Let these criminals know that we have zero tolerance for not following the law.  Our jury system works.  The naysayers were not on the grand jury and have not heard all of the facts of the case.  Besides, Pierce was found guilty of second degree murder, not first degree murder.  Maybe the naysayers should do a little more research before thinking this is unfair.

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I just wanted to say "THANK YOU" for supporting the local Law Enforcement community around this area. I've lived here all my life and started my job here in Law Enforcement in this county. I saw your segment last night with the "Pierce" trail and just wanted to take a moment and saying, "THANKS".
 
I wish more people were like you....IE...looking into the law and finding out what a certain charge stands for and what it means.

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I totally agree with you, and quite frankly I'm shocked that the race card has not been pulled yet on the Anthony Pierce matter.  If they didn't flee the police Rich Matthews wouldn't have had to rush to the scene, and he no doubt would have just went on his police duties.  I for one am glad Anthony Pierce was found guilty, it sets a good example of what could happen to you if you flee the police.  You will not get away and you will be charged to the fullest extent of the law, and much worse things can happen.

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Due to a recent court decision, I don't see how anyone could expect this officer to be held accountable for his actions. The DA should charge whoever the police were chasing or the telephone pole for jumping in front of the car.

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I agree that this man should have gotten something (punishment) but I also think that the cop involved was driving too fast and/or careless and reckless as happens many times when additional cops are called to assist.  The man sentenced was not directly involved with the crash; think the punishment was too harsh for his part in the crime/accident.  Wilmington PD may learn that they need to give a course to their cops on defensive driving, regardless of the circumstances that they are called to.  If this cop had been driving more defensibly, he may be alive today!

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First I'll start by saying I am truly sorry for this officer and his family,  A few questions I still have is what is the policy for Police chases regarding speed,  Was he in fact in route to assist the other officer in stopping the car or was it already stopped??  To charge this man with murder in any degree is outrageous, The officer and him alone was driving twice the posted speed limit at night and lost control of his vehicle.  That was careless and reckless behavior.

How can you hold someone else responsible for your actions,  What's next??  Should they then charge the manufacturer of the Box he was trying to avoid??  This opens Pandora's Box, And lets not be mistaken, It's a Bitch to get that lid back on.  

The situations this brings to mind are scary,   Suppose I have a wreck, It's my fault, The Fire Truck gets T-boned running a red light to get to the accident and one of them dies, Am I now to be held  accountable for his death??

Hopefully since Common Sense was lost in the hearts of the Juror's, The appellate court will set it right.

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Your commentary on the Anthony Pierce trial and verdict was wrong because of a few assumption you made.

When you mentioned that a local grand jury "studied the facts and the law" when they indicted  Mr. Pierce I had to laugh. It seems obvious that you have never been a member of a grand jury. There is an old saying that any District Attorney worth his salt can get a grand jury to indict a "chicken sandwich". The grand jury serves at the whim of the District Attorney and is incapable of studying the law.

Most municipalities have well defined police procedures that govern high speed police chases.  The ones I am familiar with would not have permitted the officer involved to join this chase in progress in this manner. Just recently a highway patrolman from Illinois traveling over 100 miles/hour crossed the center line and killed two teenage girls. He now faces charges of reckless homicide. If the Wilmington officer had not hit a tree but some innocent bystanders during his chase I'm sure wrongful death lawsuits would have been filed. Cowboy type behavior should not be tolerated by our police force in situations like this. Anthony Pierce's escape did not endanger the public. The chase did.

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I'm not much for Mr Pierce but I do think charging him with this police officers death is a stretch.  Mr. Mathhews was driving in an unsafe manner.  The police policies state that they should not drive in a unsafe manner nor chase anyone in a manner that would threaten the public. 

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 I understand what you're saying , and I feel bad for the officer and his family . The person that left the box in the street that caused the wreck is more to blame then Anthony . It's just too many variables why he shouldn't go to jail for this . The officers speed is another issue . Cops always have the option to call a chase off . For your safety and mine . My only fear is what's next . How far will the envelope be pushed . Who's next . God will judge those who find pleasure in ones downfall.

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