Ducking Death Row: Wilmington man asking for retrial in murder case

Looking back: Shan Carter convicted of murder
Published: Jan. 29, 2015 at 3:21 AM EST|Updated: Feb. 2, 2015 at 3:21 AM EST
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Shan Carter is one of 150 people currently living on North Carolina's death row. (Source:WECT)
Shan Carter is one of 150 people currently living on North Carolina's death row. (Source:WECT)

RALEIGH, NC (WECT) - Central Prison in Raleigh has been the home of former Wilmington resident Shan Carter for the past 15 years. He is one of 150 people currently living on North Carolina's death row.

In December of 1996, Donald Brunson's body was found in a wooded area off Holly Shelter Road. An investigation revealed Brunson was kidnapped and killed after a home invasion and robbery.

A few months later, a shooting on Dawson Street rocked the Wilmington community. Tyrone Baker was targeted and shot multiple times, and 8-year-old Demetrius Greene was caught in the crossfire. Both of the victims died of their injuries.

Shan Carter was taken into custody for the crimes a few days later. He was eventually charged with the murders of Greene, Baker, and Brunson and convicted of all three. He received life in prison for the Brunson murder. He received the death penalty for the murders of Baker and Greene.

District Attorney Ben David confirmed that Carter's prior conviction of Brunson's murder was taken into account when Carter was sentenced to death in the cases of Baker and Greene and ultimately led to the death penalty.

Almost two decades since the first murder, 40-year-old Carter now wants to face the judge again, claiming innocence in the Brunson murder.

"I didn't have nothing to do with it at all. There's a guy that plead guilty to it. Other than that, I didn't have nothing to do with it at all," said Carter in a jailhouse interview.

Carter's co-defendant, Kwada Temoney, pleaded guilty to Brunson's murder and is still incarcerated. Temoney refused to testify that Carter had any involvement in the killing.

Carter has always claimed innocence in the murder of Donald Brunson and believes that a corrupt prosecution is the reason he was found guilty.

"They knew exactly what happened. They knew exactly what they was doing when they presented this certain evidence that was illegal, and I'm certain of this evidence being illegal," alleged Carter.

The evidence Carter is referring to is an out of court, unsworn statement from his estranged wife claiming Carter admitted to killing Brunson.

"That statement was basically a fraud," Carter proclaimed.

Carter believes that the statement was the soul piece of evidence that gave the prosecution a case against him.

"I don't think that. I'm 1,000 percent positive of that," he elaborated.

Carter's attorney from the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, William Durham, backs that notion.

 "It was the absolute only piece of evidence directly linking Mr. Carter to this crime," Durham said.

The man who helped put Carter on Death Row, District Attorney Ben David, disagrees citing several witness testimonies and cover-up letters from prison that prove Carter's guilt.

"He's exhausted every legal appeal. There's an old adage that if you don't have the facts you pound the law, if you don't have the law you pound the facts and if you don't have either you pound the police the prosecutors, the judges and anyone else who is in your way," David explained.

Now Carter's pounding something different. He and his attorney claim they have new proof shows he is innocent.

Durham stated that masks were found at the scene of the crime and recently run through new tests. He said the tests found no trace of Carter's DNA.

"You need evidence that is compelling and we have that in this case," Durham said. "We have very compelling evidence that there's three intruders, three masks, and Mr. Carter was not wearing one of those masks."

Carter was asked if he thought the public should believe his claims of innocence.

"Not believe me, but believe the evidence, believe the proof," Carter said. "You know I wouldn't expect nobody to believe me. I'm the accused. Don't nobody believe the accused."

The District Attorney refuses to believe Carter is possibly innocent of the crime.

"What he is now alleging is not new evidence to us and it's something that we're confident that when it's fully reviewed will be upheld once again," David stated.

As Carter continues to file motions in an effort to secure a new trial, Brunson's family still feels the pains of a loved one lost almost 20 years ago. They agreed to speak on-camera when Carter appeared in a New Hanover County courtroom in September asking for a re-trial.

"We remember this like it was last night and it still bothers us and that was almost 18 years ago," said Brunson family member Angel Berry.

"Tyrone Baker don't get to wake up another day, Donald Brunson don't get to wake up and see another day. We can't wake up and see their faces anymore. We have to go and put flowers on they grave and look at a tombstone if we want to see them, so no Shan Carter does not deserve to live another day," said Brenda George, another Brunson relative.

The district attorney said he is committed to keeping Carter behind bars for the rest of his life.

"This is about three lives that were taken. He had his day in court and the jury spoke and the truth is killing him," David said.

Though he disputes the fact that the killings were murders, Carter admits to firing the shots that took the lives of Tyrone Baker and Demetrius Greene. He claims he shot Baker out of self-defense and Greene's killing should be ruled manslaughter.

The admitted former drug dealer stated, however, that he would have lived his life differently if given a chance to start over.

"Of course, I would do anything to bring Demetrious Greene back. I would give my life to bring his life back," Carter said.

According to a press release from the North Carolina Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, the state hasn't executed a prisoner since the year 2006. The release also stated that there were only three new death sentences handed down in North Carolina in 2014.

Carter was ordered to get a mental health evaluation the last time he tried to ask for a re-trial in 2014. He tried to represent himself in court. He revealed in the jailhouse interview that he did this because he thought his attorney would object to his claims of corruption alleged against the district attorney.

David said he expects Carter to be back in a New Hanover County courtroom again in the spring of 2015. 

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