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Saturday, October 01, 2005

Coward of the County

Over in Durham county Shelton Deangelo Epps will stand trial for the brutal murder of Sean Ethan Owen. In a graphic confession, Epps told how he lured Owen to Durham through a gay chat line, shot him twice in the head, beat him and finally dumped his body in the Eno river.

Defense attorneys argued that Epps' confession was obtained unconstitutionally (allegedly Durham police questioned Epps for more than 5 hours before advising him of his Miranda rights. Attorneys further argued that Epps was arrested "without reasonable suspicion or probable cause". But Durham Superior Court Judge Henry Hight was hearing none of it. He will allow the murder trial of Shelton Epps to go forward.

How is it that just one county over the DA can't even get a larceny charge to stick?

Though Andrew Douglas Dalzell is the only suspect in the murder of Deborah Key and he confessed to her murder, Orange County Superior Court Judge Wade Barber threw out the confession because allegedly Miranda wasn't mentioned until after police obtained a confession. Further, we learned this week that it's looking like all current charges against Dalzell - including six counts of third-degree sexual exploitation and one count each of larceny by employee, possession of stolen property, financial identity fraud and obtaining property by false pretense - will be thrown out because visiting Orange County Judge Howard Manning believes information was obtained without reasonable suspicion and probable cause.

All of this must be leaving Orange County DA Jim Woodall feeling very frustrated and wishing he was arguing in front of a Durham court. Recall that Woodall inherited this mess from departing DA Carl Fox, who last year was appointed Orange County's new Superior Court Judge (the deus-ex-machina provided by none other than - wait for it... Wade Barber.)

Orange County Superior Court Judge Carl Fox

I'm no lawyer. I'm sure there are subtleties between the cases of Epps and Dalzell that made the one easier to try than the other. Nor am I a Conservative ideologue with a political ax to grind (Barber and Fox are Democrats). Coming from Canada I'm more of a political fence-sitter; a point of unbearable frustration to my card carrying Democrat wife. Still I would like to point out in this month leading up to local elections that neither Wade Barber or Carl Fox are up for reelection this cycle. Fox's term ends in '06, for Barber you'll need to wait until '08.


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