Convicted killer sues, claiming a conspiracy to keep him on death row

Published: Jan. 6, 2017 at 4:49 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 6, 2017 at 4:59 PM EST
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NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - A convicted killer appeared in New Hanover County court Friday for a hearing related to a lawsuit he filed against several defendants he claims are conspiring to keep him on death row.

Shan Carter, 42, is convicted of killing three people in two separate incidents, including the kidnapping and murder of Donald Brunson on Dec. 6, 1996, and the murders of Tyrone Baker and an innocent bystander, 8-year-old Demetrius Greene, on Feb. 16, 1997.

In October 2016, Carter filed the lengthy, handwritten federal lawsuit, naming District Attorney Ben David, Governor Roy Cooper (in his capacity as former Attorney General), and his legal counsel on his appeal of his death sentence among others as defendants.

"Between February 18, 1999 to this present date all the defendants at various times between the said dates joined in conspiracies against the plaintiff consisting of a conspiracy to murder the plaintiff by poisonous lethal injection under the color of law in the state of North Carolina's Death Chamber at Central Prison, in Raleigh, NC, malicious communicating threats to murder the plaintiff, kidnapping the plaintiff, tampering with (a civil rights) victim - witness, mail and or wire fraud, aiding and abetting, and circumventing the state criminal procedure that's federally funded," the lawsuit states.

In the suit, Carter claims he attempted on at least four occasions to have Cooper investigate his cases because of "trial misconduct," but Cooper refused and "investigated other high-profile, race-based, and political cases."

On Wednesday, Johnston County Superior Court Judge Thomas Lock allowed Carter's defense attorneys, William Durham and Kristin Parks, to withdraw from his case, as they could not reasonably defend Carter while attempting to defend themselves.

Before the ruling, Lock gave Carter the option to remove Durham and Parks as defendants from the lawsuit, so they could continue to represent him and not delay his appeal by having new attorneys assigned to defend him. He declined.

"It's going to take several months, if not more years," David explained. We're ready and have been ready, I've been living with this case virtually as long as I've been a prosecutor, so I'm pretty familiar with it. It's going to take new attorneys some time to get up to speed and we'll certainly meet them in any courtroom to continue to hear this case when they're ready."

Carter is seeking compensatory treble damages of upward of $95 million, an injunction ordering the defendants "cease their racketeering activity," court costs and attorney fees, and a trial by jury.

David, who was trial counsel when the murders occurred, said this type of legal action was not uncommon for inmates in Carter's position.

"Increasingly, we are seeing that defendants are shooting the messenger, firing their attorneys or filing lawsuits against them," David said. "It is not uncommon unfortunately now to see the process being put on trial when the defendant has no other avenue."

The murders

According to court documents, Carter and two other men wearing masks entered Brunson's bedroom, ordered him and his girlfriend to the floor at gunpoint, fired a shot, and violently beat him. The intruders then took money and jewelry from Brunson, and beat him until he lost consciousness. The men then left with Brunson in his girlfriend's car.

Masks were found inside the vehicle when investigators located it later that morning in a wooded area approximately seven miles from their home. Brunson's body was located about 100 yards from the vehicle with three gunshot wounds in his back and one in his upper right arm.

Carter was convicted of first-degree murder, second-degree kidnapping, robbery with a dangerous weapon, and first-degree burglary in connection to Brunson's murder. He was sentenced to life in prison.

In late 1996, Carter was involved in a number of break-ins and burglaries in Wilmington, including one at Baker's home, which resulted in the theft of approximately $35,000 in cash, court documents state.

This incident led to confrontation between Carter and Baker in front of a grocery store located at Tenth and Dawson streets. Carter fired shots at Baker, who ran down Tenth Street. While chasing Baker, Carter fired more shots, two of which hit Baker in his leg and torso.

Demetrius, who was with his mother heading to a toy store, was hit and killed by a stray bullet that went through a windshield in his mother's car.

Baker collapsed nearby, and died a short time later.

Carter was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder for the killings of Baker and Demetrius, for which he received the death penalty.

Attorneys call Carter "delusional"

In February 2015 hearing, Durham and Parks told Judge Jack Hooks their relationship with Carter was "really in a bad place," and that he was "delusional." The hearing was to determine if Carter was competent enough to represent himself in court for his requested retrial. Hooks found he was competent, but said he saw no issues with Carter's legal counsel, and kept them on his case.

In a hearing three months later, Carter claimed post-conviction DNA testing proved he did not murder Brunson, entitling him to a new trial in the case and removal from death row. In September, Judge Jack Hooks denied Carter's request for a new trial and upheld the death penalty, saying the new testing of old evidence would likely not change the outcome of the original trial.

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