State v. Barnes

Citation481 S.E.2d 44,345 N.C. 184
Decision Date10 February 1997
Docket NumberNo. 146A94,146A94
PartiesSTATE of North Carolina v. William Leroy BARNES Robert Lewis Blakney Frank Junior Chambers.
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of North Carolina

Michael F. Easley, Attorney General by William B. Crumpler and John G. Barnwell, Assistant Attorneys General, for State.

Malcolm Ray Hunter, Jr., Appellate Defender by Janine M. Crawley, Assistant Appellate Defender, for defendant-appellant Barnes.

Fred W. DeVore, III, Charolette, for defendant-appellant Blakney.

Seth R. Cohen and J. David James, Greensboro, for defendant-appellant Chambers.

MITCHELL, Chief Justice.

Defendants William Leroy Barnes, Robert Lewis Blakney, and Frank Junior Chambers were tried jointly and capitally upon indictments charging them each with two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of robbery with a dangerous weapon, and one count of first-degree burglary in connection with the killings of B.P. and Ruby Tutterow. The jury returned verdicts finding all three defendants guilty of both counts of first-degree murder on the theory of premeditation and deliberation as well as under the felony murder rule. The felonies the jury relied upon in finding defendants guilty of felony murder were burglary and both counts of armed robbery. Following a capital sentencing proceeding pursuant to N.C.G.S. § 15A-2000, the jury recommended that defendants Barnes and Chambers be sentenced to death for each murder and that defendant Blakney be sentenced to a mandatory term of life imprisonment for each murder. The trial court accordingly sentenced defendants Barnes and Chambers to death for the first-degree murders and sentenced defendant Blakney to two terms of life imprisonment. Defendants were also each sentenced to two terms of forty years' imprisonment for armed robbery and a term of forty years' imprisonment for burglary. All sentences are to be served consecutively.

Defendants appeal to this Court as a matter of right from the judgments and respective sentences of death and life imprisonment for the first-degree murders. We allowed their motions to bypass the Court of Appeals on their appeal of the judgments entered for the offenses of armed robbery and burglary. For the reasons set forth in this opinion, we conclude that defendants received a fair trial, free from prejudicial error, and that the respective death and life sentences imposed by the trial court must stand.

While we discuss the relevant evidence in detail where necessary in the individual assignments of error, a brief synopsis of the evidence introduced at trial is as follows: On 29 October 1992, all three defendants went to the Salisbury home of B.P. and Ruby Tutterow to rob the Tutterows. Defendant Chambers had met B.P. while incarcerated at the Rowan County jail, where B.P. cooked part-time and served as a deputy sheriff. B.P. was known to carry significant amounts of money in his wallet and had given defendant Chambers money to buy cigarettes and food while Chambers was in jail.

Chambers was released from jail on the afternoon of 29 October, and shortly thereafter met up with defendant Blakney and Antonio Mason at a nearby convenience store. Chambers told Blakney and Mason that he had been released from jail without any money and that he knew someone who lived Patricia Miller was speaking with B.P. Tutterow on the phone around 10:00 p.m. that evening when she heard a commotion on the line and the phone went dead. After attempting to reach the Tutterows several times, Miller telephoned the police around 11:30 p.m. Salisbury police officers arrived at the Tutterow home around 12:30 a.m. on 30 October and found the Tutterows dead and the house ransacked.

nearby who had plenty of money. Chambers said that he was willing to kill someone if it was necessary to get some money. After being unable to convince Mason to cooperate in their efforts, Chambers and Blakney joined up with defendant Barnes, who was at that time in the convenience store parking lot. Chambers, Blakney, and Barnes then went with others to the apartment of Cynthia Gwen, where the three defendants talked together about "mak[ing] a lick," or robbing someone. Barnes got into an argument with another man while at Gwen's apartment, and Gwen asked him to leave. The three defendants then left Gwen's apartment together around 10:00 p.m.

The Tutterows' daughters determined that several things were missing from their parents' home including B.P.'s .357 Magnum pistol and a .38-caliber revolver, B.P.'s gold wedding band and gold watch, several items of jewelry, two bank bags that usually contained cash, and a bag of antique coins including some Susan B. Anthony dollars and Kennedy half-dollars.

Physical evidence in the home tied defendants Blakney and Chambers to the crime. The DNA profile of a sample drawn from one cigarette butt found in the house matched that of Chambers, and the profile on another butt matched that of Blakney. A latent fingerprint on a money box found in one bedroom matched Chambers' left middle finger. A print obtained from another money box matched that of Blakney's left palm.

Around 11:00 p.m. on the night of the murders, Barnes, Blakney, and Chambers went to the apartment where Antonio, Sharon, and Valerie Mason lived. Blakney and Chambers told Sharon that they would pay her for the use of her car to go to Kannapolis to dispose of some guns. Although Sharon refused, Blakney gave the two women around twenty to forty dollars and gave Valerie a wedding band with one small diamond. When Valerie asked Blakney where he got the ring, he replied that "we f----- up a police" and that it was a "three-person secret." Blakney further told Valerie that he, Barnes, and Chambers had some jewelry and guns. Barnes and Chambers each then showed Valerie and Sharon a gun.

Defendants then left with Antonio to buy drugs. They bought about sixty dollars worth of crack at a nearby apartment complex and returned to the Mason apartment to smoke it, after which defendants left the apartment again. Shortly thereafter, Antonio, Sharon, and Valerie heard sirens and followed the sounds to the Tutterow home, where they learned of the murders. Valerie told an officer at the scene that "[Blakney] shouldn't have killed those people like that" and went to the police department around midnight to tell the police what she knew.

Some time after midnight, Everette Feamster, a Salisbury cab driver, drove defendants to the Bradshaw Apartments in Salisbury. Feamster and a passenger in the cab, Charles Fair, testified that they heard defendants talking about money and saw them passing money back and forth. Upon arriving at the Bradshaw Apartments, Barnes purchased three hundred dollars' worth of crack cocaine from Wayne Smith and bought more crack from Willie Peck. Barnes later sold B.P.'s .38-caliber revolver for five rocks of crack. Defendants then went to several other parties throughout the early morning, during which time they bought as much as one thousand dollars' worth of crack from Smith and varying amounts of crack from other sellers. At the home of Paula Jones, Smith saw Barnes with a pistol stuck in his pants and Blakney with a pistol in his pants. Blakney then gave his pistol to Chambers.

During the early morning of 30 October 1992, Blakney pawned two rings--a "mother's ring" with three birthstones and a wedding band--and some antique coins. Barnes attempted to sell a gold watch with diamonds on the face to Joseph Knox. Chambers attempted to hide Mr. Tutterow's .357 Magnum All three defendants later made statements to police, but each denied having been involved in the killings of the Tutterows. Chambers admitted to having been in the Tutterow home and told Rachel Eberhart, "Hell yeah, I killed the m----- f-----," although he later said he was merely kidding. Blakney told police that he took items from the bedrooms but that he did not take part in the shootings. Barnes denied having seen Blakney or Chambers on 29 October 1992 and stated that he had nothing to do with the killings. Special Agent Michael Creasy testified that the palms of Barnes' hands had indications of gunshot residue on them and explained that the concentrations on Barnes' palms could have been a result of Barnes having merely handled a gun rather than having actually shot one. Gunshot residue was also found on the waistbands of Barnes' and Chambers' pants. Furthermore, during court proceedings in November, Barnes wore a gold necklace and a watch belonging to the Tutterows.

pistol at the home of Carl Fleming. Barnes was taken into custody on the morning of 30 October, Blakney was arrested that afternoon, and Chambers turned himself in that afternoon.

Dr. Brent Hall testified that Ruby Tutterow died as a result of multiple gunshot wounds. She suffered ten wounds in all, four of which were to the head. Hall testified that two of these wounds, one to the head and one to the back, had the potential to be rapidly fatal. Dr. Deborah Radisch testified that B.P. Tutterow also suffered multiple gunshot wounds and died as a result of a gunshot to the chest in combination with several shots to the face and head. B.P. had also been beaten and had suffered a number of defensive wounds. Special Agent Thomas Trochum testified that the Tutterows were shot with both a .357 Magnum revolver and .38-caliber revolver, although he added that he could not say whether a third gun was involved.


We first deal with the several issues to which defendants jointly assign error. In assignments of error, defendants contend that the trial court committed an abuse of discretion by denying defendants' motion for change of venue, for individual voir dire of prospective jurors, and for additional peremptory challenges.

With respect to the change of venue issue, defendants contend that widespread pretrial publicity "so infected the local community that [they] could not receive a fair trial in ...

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