JANUARY 25, 2005 -- Paul Cummings appeared calm as his family sat behind him in a New Hanover County courtroom Monday. His lawyers called several people to the stand, hoping to prove that race played a role in his death sentence. If they can prove their case, Cummings sentence could be overturned.
Cummings was convicted in August 2004 for killing Jane Head in 2002. He later admitted to the murder, but claimed he was drunk and on drugs at the time of the killing.
The new motion to have the case thrown out stems from a discussion during a death penalty class at Duke Law School in September. A student in the class, Stephanie Bradford, took the stand Monday. She says her classmate, Jeremy Eicher, told the class he asked the case's prosecutor, Ben David, during his internship why David didn't let Cummings plead guilty in exchange for life in prison.
Bradford says Eicher told the class David responded by saying that he wanted to look fair, and that he couldn't not seek the death penalty against Cummings, who looks white, but is a Lumbee Indian, because he planned to seek death against Curtis Dixon, the man accused of killing UNC-Wilmington student Jessica Faulkner, who is black.
Bradford broke down on the stand as she told Judge Jerry Cash Martin she was confident about what Eicher said in class.
Ben David, who is now the District Attorney, says race had nothing to do with his decision. He plans to take the stand Tuesday and give his side of the story.
When the hearing is over Cummings will be sent back to Central Prison in Raleigh. That is until Judge Martin, who also presided in his death penalty trial, makes a decision.