State v. Locklear

Decision Date28 August 2009
Docket NumberNo. 578A05.,578A05.
CourtNorth Carolina Supreme Court
PartiesSTATE of North Carolina v. Dane LOCKLEAR, Jr.

Appeal as of right pursuant to N.C.G.S. § 7A-27(a) from a judgment imposing a sentence of death entered by Judge Robert F. Floyd, Jr. on 13 June 2005 in Superior Court, Robeson County, upon a jury verdict finding defendant guilty of first-degree murder. On 2 January 2008, the Supreme Court allowed defendant's motion to bypass the Court of Appeals as to his appeal of additional judgments. Heard in the Supreme Court 8 September 2008.

Roy Cooper, Attorney General, by William B. Crumpler, Joan M. Cunningham, and Amy C. Kunstling, Assistant Attorneys General, for the State.

Staples S. Hughes, Appellate Defender, by Constance E. Widenhouse, Assistant Appellate Defender; and Janet Moore, Wyoming, OH, for defendant-appellant.


Defendant Dane Locklear, Jr. was indicted for one count each of first-degree murder, felonious larceny, burning of personal property, and first-degree arson. The case was tried capitally, and on 1 June 2005, the jury returned verdicts finding defendant guilty of the first-degree murder of Frances Singh Persad on the basis of malice, premeditation, and deliberation, and also under the felony murder rule on the bases of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury and arson. The jury also found defendant guilty of misdemeanor larceny, burning of personal property, and first-degree arson. Following a mental retardation hearing, the jury found defendant was not mentally retarded. The capital sentencing hearing proceeded, after which the jury recommended a sentence of death.

Defendant appealed his capital conviction to this Court, and we allowed his motion to bypass the Court of Appeals as to his other convictions. We find no error in defendant's trial, but we vacate his death sentence and remand for a new sentencing hearing.


The State presented evidence that in the early morning hours of 27 February 2000, firefighters responded to reports of a fire at the residence of Frances Singh Persad at 52 Beck Street in Red Springs, North Carolina. When they arrived at the scene, firefighters found the home engulfed in flames. After extinguishing the fire, firefighters discovered the charred body of Persad lying on the floor of the front bedroom. A bloodied one-by-four board, a bed slat, lay next to her body. Persad's vehicle, a red Ford Mustang, was not at the home. The shotgun that Persad normally kept in her bedroom was also missing. The subsequent criminal investigation revealed the fire was intentionally set and that Persad died from carbon monoxide poisoning. Persad also sustained blunt-force injuries to her head and sharp-force injuries to her neck. Investigators soon focused their attention on defendant, whom Persad had befriended while he was a patient at Southeastern Regional Medical Center. Persad worked at the medical center as a psychiatric nurse, and her initial friendship with defendant had developed into a sexual relationship.

Several days later, on 1 March 2000, a land surveyor working in a rural wooded area in Robeson County discovered Ms. Persad's red Ford Mustang. The wooded area was near a canal with a dirt road beside it, known as "Canal Road." The Mustang was burned down to bare metal and was still smoking. Defendant's extended family resided in the area. Upon searching the area, police found defendant hiding in a nearby house.

Heather Justice testified on behalf of the State. Justice stated defendant was an acquaintance of her former boyfriend, John Campbell. Justice testified defendant sold Campbell a "very large black weapon," a gun, in exchange for "a little over 200 pieces of dope" worth "$200." Other witnesses established that this was the same shotgun belonging to Persad. Justice further testified that defendant and Campbell arrived at her residence one Sunday early morning in February of 2000. Defendant was driving a red Mustang, and Campbell was sitting in the passenger seat of the vehicle. Campbell came into the house and asked whether defendant could use the bathroom. As defendant entered the residence, Justice noticed he appeared to have fresh blood on his hands and clothes. After defendant went into the bathroom, Justice asked Campbell "what was going on, what did he do—what was he bringing people with blood in my house for." Defendant left approximately ten minutes later.

The State introduced into evidence several statements defendant gave to law enforcement officers in which he confessed to killing Persad. One statement was audiotaped, while the second was videotaped. Defendant told Detective Ricky Britt of the Robeson County Sheriff's Office and several other law enforcement officers that Persad picked him up on the evening of 26 February 2000 after completing a second shift at the hospital. Persad drove them in her red Mustang to her home. Defendant and Persad were drinking in bed together after sexual intercourse when they began to argue. Although defendant could not recall the exact subject of their disagreement, defendant stated that Persad was angry with him because he had taken a shotgun from her house a few days earlier. The argument "upset" him, and Persad was "screaming" at him. Defendant told Detective Britt that "the next thing [he knew] is that [he] had grabbed a two by four that was in her room ... and [] began beating her with it." According to defendant, Persad attempted to reach the telephone to call 911, but he beat her down. She said she "didn't want to die." Defendant continued to beat Persad in the head with the board until he believed she was dead. He checked her heartbeat, but "knew she was gone." She bled profusely, and defendant had "a lot of blood" on him. Defendant then set the curtains and couch on fire and fled the home. He drove Persad's Mustang to a river, where he attempted to wash the blood from his body and clothes. Defendant eventually drove to a rural area near Canal Road and burned the Mustang.

While confessing to Persad's murder, defendant confessed to a second killing that occurred several years earlier. Defendant told Detective Britt he killed a young woman named Cynthia Wheeler, who was a student at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke at the time of her disappearance in June of 1997. At that time, investigators found Wheeler's vehicle at the same location near the canal where Persad's vehicle was discovered. Like Persad's Mustang, Wheeler's vehicle was burned down to bare metal. The skeletal remains of Wheeler's body were found several months later along the same canal, approximately one to two miles away from where Wheeler's burned vehicle was located. Defendant told Detective Britt that he and Wheeler engaged in sexual intercourse in her vehicle, but that Wheeler became angry when she discovered defendant was not wearing a condom. Wheeler scratched defendant's face, which "upset" him. Defendant beat Wheeler in the face, then allowed her to dress. Wheeler told defendant she intended to tell law enforcement officers that defendant raped her, then began to run away. Defendant caught her, then beat and choked her. Wheeler told him, "[p]lease don't do this." At some point, defendant realized he had "gone too far" and "tried to wake her up." He checked her pulse and heartbeat. When he realized Wheeler was dead, he dumped her body in a wooded area along the canal and burned her vehicle.

The jury found defendant guilty of the first-degree murder of Frances Persad on the basis of premeditation and deliberation, as well as under the felony murder rule, with both assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury and arson as underlying felonies. The case proceeded to sentencing.

Defendant presented evidence of mental retardation at the sentencing hearing. Dr. Timothy Hancock, a clinical psychologist, testified as an expert in cognitive impairment or mental retardation. Dr. Hancock testified he considered defendant's case "a slam dunk for retardation" and that it was one of the few pro bono cases his clinic accepted every year "based on merit and the strength of the findings." Dr. Hancock testified defendant obtained a full scale IQ score of 68 on the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale ("WAIS") test he administered to defendant in January 2005. Dr. Hancock's testing also showed defendant's adaptive functioning was significantly deficient in social skills, communication skills, self-care, work skills, and community use. Dr. Hancock stated that, in his opinion, defendant was mentally retarded as defined by the North Carolina General Statutes.

Dr. Hancock also testified to earlier testing of defendant. In September 2004 defendant obtained a full scale IQ score of 69 under a WAIS IQ test administered by another clinical psychologist, Dr. Brad Fisher. Dr. Fisher determined that defendant had adaptive deficits in functional academics, self-care, community use, and work skills. Dr Fisher concluded defendant was mentally retarded.

According to Dr. Hancock, defendant's school records confirmed he had significant impairment in the functional academics area. In 1984, when defendant was fourteen years old, he had an IQ score of 65 on the Slosson IQ test and an IQ score of 69 on the Stanford-Binet IQ test. The Slosson test results showed defendant had a mental age of nine years at the time. Defendant was placed in "educably [sic] mentally handicapped" classes in 1984. Dr. Hancock stated this was "the educational version of mentally retarded." Defendant dropped out of school at the age of sixteen when his mother died.

The State presented evidence of defendant's records from Southeastern Regional Mental Health, as well as his medical records from the Department of Correction. Although defendant had been previously diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and cocaine, alcohol, and...

To continue reading

Request your trial
140 cases
  • Cuesta-rodriguez v. State Of Okla.
    • United States
    • United States State Court of Criminal Appeals of Oklahoma. Court of Criminal Appeals of Oklahoma
    • October 12, 2010
    ...must be confined to his or her own opinions and, as to these, the examiner is available for cross-examination); State v. Locklear, 681 S.E.2d 293, 304-05 (N.C. 2009)(holding that autopsy report is testimonial and therefore inadmissible under Melendez-Diaz and Crawford absent showing that fo......
  • CUESTA-RODRIGUEZ v. State of Okla.
    • United States
    • United States State Court of Criminal Appeals of Oklahoma. Court of Criminal Appeals of Oklahoma
    • October 12, 2010
  • State Of Me. v. Mitchell Jr.
    • United States
    • Maine Supreme Court
    • August 5, 2010
  • United States v. James, Docket No. 09-2732-cr (Lead)
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
    • March 28, 2013
    ...criminal investigation" -- and each autopsy "found the manner of death to be a homicide caused by gunshot wounds") with State v. Locklear, 363 N.C. 438, 452, 681 S.E.2d 293, 305 (2009)("Thus, when the State seeks to introduce [autopsy reports], absent a showing that the analysts are unavail......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • The Confrontation Clause and Forensic Autopsy Reports - A 'Testimonial
    • United States
    • Louisiana Law Review No. 74-1, October 2013
    • October 1, 2013
    ...STAT. ANN. 5/115-5.1 (West 2002); FED. R. EVID. 803(6), (8). 24. Crawford , 541 U.S. 36 (2004). 25. Id. at 68. 26. State v. Locklear, 681 S.E.2d 293, 304–05 (N.C. 2009) (citing MelendezDiaz v. Massachusetts, 557 U.S. 305, 310 (2009)). 2013] TESTIMONIAL AUTOPSY REPORTS 123 (b) Declarant . “D......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT