A murder defendant representing himself refused to participate in his own trial Tuesday. Nashid Porter, charged in the 2012 shooting death of Brian Grant, said the trial was unconstitutional and he didn't want any part in it.
Judge Chuck Henry told him he had that constitutional right, and reminded him that if he wanted to return, he could. Porter told the judge he would not come back.
The trial began without the defendant, who must represent himself after Judge Henry decided he forfeited his right to counsel when he fired four court-appointed attorneys.
Attorney Richard McNeil agreed to be standby counsel, but he did not give opening statements and sat in the audience Tuesday.
In the State's opening statement, Assistant District Attorney Connie Jordan told the jury Grant was murdered in cold blood by Porter, and as the trial unfolds, they will see that Porter was a convicted felon at the time of the shooting.
The State called Dawn Grant McDowell as their first witness. She is Brian Grant's older sister, the oldest of five siblings.
McDowell told the court about the day Grant was killed. She was out of town and missed several phone calls from her family.
"My mom was hysterical on the phone so I called my brother," McDowell said as she remembered how she learned of Grant's death. "He was silent on the phone, and I said, 'is it true?'...just like that."
She immediately returned to Wilmington, and as she turned onto Grant's street she said the crime scene looked like something out of a movie.
"My dad couldn't even respond to me, I could hear my sister screaming and wailing," McDowell said.
Her husband is a Captain with the Wilmington Fire Department and she said if he hadn't just gotten off of his shift, he would have responded to the call.
McDowell, crying through her testimony, told the court her brother's death left the family incomplete.
"It's been very hard to see my parents lose their child," Grant said. "Our faith has kept us strong, but we definitely feel the loss."
The State's second witness was Ebonee Hines, Grant's girlfriend at the time of the murder. Hines said she and Grant had been together for years.
She told the court that the night before the murder, Grant and Porter got into an argument. Grant went to his cousin's home in another community to "cool off" while Porter stood across the street from her and yelled, "he don't know me!"
"I told him he didn't know Brian neither," Hines testified.
She said the next morning, Grant drove she and a friend to her job. As they pulled out of the driveway around 8:30, Hines said Porter was standing across the street, watching.
"I told Brian that he didn't look right, and my friend said he looked crazy," Hines recalled. Grant told her he wasn't worried about Porter.
Grant dropped her off at her job. She said she was in a meeting when she saw she had several missed calls.
"People were telling me to get home," Hines said. "When I got there I saw firetrucks, yellow tape, and police."
She said an officer confirmed her 13-year-old daughter who had been home was fine. When she approached the front door, she said she saw Brian Grant laying in the doorway.
"Do you miss him as we are sitting here today?" District Attorney Ben David asked.
"Yes, sir," Hines responded.
The State's third witness is WPD auxiliary officer Jean Marcel. He said he was doing his rounds in the Creekwood community the day Grant was murdered.
He said when he pulled into the neighborhood, he passed Grant and Ebonee Hines as he drove her to work. He referred to Grant by his nickname, "B-G."
Marcel told the court he had a great relationship with members of the community. He said he also knew Nashid Porter because he hung around at "Obe's house."
"Obe" is Obediah Hester's nickname. Porter is also charged in his murder in Duplin County. He was a State witness set to testify against Porter in this trial.
Marcel said he saw Brian Grant return home that morning after taking his girlfriend to work. He also said he was a responding officer to the call that someone had been shot.
"I ran up to the house and saw B-G laying on the doorstep," Marcel remembered. He said he was deceased.
Marcel told the court he helped the other officers get information from neighbors, but that was difficult because nobody wanted to "snitch."
The State's fourth witness is Wilmington Police Department Corporal Robert Pearce. He's been with WPD for more than 10 years.
He was the first officer to respond to the scene when Brian Grant was shot.
"There was a subject laying in the doorway and we immediately secured the scene," Pierce said. He told the court Grant appeared to be dead.
Pierce recalled Ebonee Hines 13-year-old daughter being in the home, so they took a sheet and covered Grant's body while they escorted her out of the back door.
The State called Charles Horney as its fifth witness. He is a retired forensic investigator with the Wilmington Police Department.
His job is to collect evidence from crime scenes and submit it for testing, in this case to the State Bureau of Investigation.
Horney told the court he collected cigarette butts, a ball cap and a chair for testing. When he turned over Grant's body, he also found a set of keys, and a wallet with money inside.
The investigator said the money was an important factor because it led them to believe what happened was not a robbery.
He said investigators also noticed a wound.
"He was face down when we got there and there was a large pool of blood," Horney said. "Looking from the back, you couldn't see any wounds, but when we turned him over you could see the blood was full-face. An officer noticed a hole in his nose, and there was one." He said it looked to be from a .22 caliber handgun.
The State's sixth witness was Dr. William Kelly. He is an expert in forensic pathology and performed Brian Grant's autopsy.
Kelly said during the autopsy, he found a single bullet wound in the nose. He determined that to be his cause of death. The bullet came to rest in Grant's neck, and he was able to retrieve it and give it to law enforcement.
The State's seventh witness was an investigator with the Department of Motor Vehicles, Paul Jelly. He helped law enforcement determine that Nashid Porter was the owner of a Buick LeSabre in 2012.
He said they were able to do that by identifying the vehicle's VIN number. The title work showed he purchased the vehicle in Jan 2011.
The State's eighth witness was Detective Lee Odham, the lead investigator in the murder case of Brian Grant. He was called out to the scene the day of the killing.
He said he's familiar with the Creekwood area through community policing, when officers go out to areas and try and form relationships with the community members.
One of the men he met through that practice was Obediah Hester. He tried to get some information from Hester that day, but he said he was not cooperative.
According to Odham, that's not uncommon. He said there is a culture in Creekwood that makes people not want to "snitch." Odham said later Obediah Hester came to WPD and gave a full interview. He did it again in 2014.
Once officers gathered enough information on the crime, they issues a BOLO or "Be On the Lookout" for Porter's car. The U.S. Marshals came in to assist in his arrest. Odham said they used cell phone tracking, sometimes GPS or tower locations, to monitor his whereabouts. He said Porter changed his phone number at least one dozen times.
He was finally apprehended in Fayetteville.
The State admitted the bullet found in Grant's nose as evidence and Odham held it up for the jury to see.
He also told the court that Porter was obsessed with finding out who "gave him up." Investigators heard Porter speaking about it with his girlfriend in a recorded phone conversation he made in the New Hanover County Detention Center. He said Porter somehow had copies of all of the State's witnesses.
Court will resume at 9:00 a.m. Wednesday.
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