New trial could be on the way for man convicted of 1991 Whiteville double murder

New trial for man convicted of double murder

WHITEVILLE (WECT) - A man who was convicted of the double murder of a Whiteville couple, and sentenced to death, will be in court Monday, according to District Attorney Jon David.

Norfolk Junior “Fuzzy” Best, who was sentenced to death in the 1991 deaths of Leslie Baldwin, 82, and Gertrude Baldwin, 79, was granted the new trial after the N.C. Supreme Court determined that undisclosed evidence was material to his case.

“It was reasonably probable that, had it been disclosed to Mr. Best prior to trial, the outcome would have been different,” the N.C. Supreme Court’s opinion states. “Therefore, we reverse the trial court’s denial of Mr. Best’s motion for appropriate relief, remanding with instructions to grant the motion and order a new trial.”

The bodies of the Baldwins were discovered in their Whiteville home in December 1991.

Best was charged with first-degree burglary, first-degree rape, robbery with a dangerous weapon and two counts of first-degree murder in the case. He was convicted on all counts in 1993 and sentenced to death.

After being appointed to Best’s case in 2010, Raleigh attorneys Michael Unti and Sharon Smith received evidence they said had never been made available to the defense: lab notes from forensic examiners at the State Bureau of Investigation, as well as the Whiteville Police Department’s investigative file, which included information about alternate suspects.

Much of the physical evidence in the case, including clothes the Baldwins wore when they were killed, was found in the attic of Whiteville City Hall.

“We are sufficiently disturbed by the extent of the withheld evidence in this case, and by the materiality of that evidence, that it undermines our confidence in the jury’s verdict,” the N.C. Supreme Court opinion reads. “The exculpatory evidence withheld by the State for approximately twenty years was material. It either negated or cast doubt upon the principal evidence presented by the State at Mr. Best’s trial. For that reason, we are of the opinion that ‘there is a reasonable probability that, had the evidence been disclosed to the defense, the result of the proceeding would have been different.’”

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