Defense: Cops ‘just didn’t do their job’

Jury to begin deliberation Tuesday morning

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

Previous coverage
* 4/6: Case against Alexander Ingram goes to jury
* 4/3: Things the jurors will never know
* 4/2: Judge denies defense motion for mistrial
* 4/2: Defense seeks mistrial
* 4/1: Detective: ‘I forgot’ to search co-defendant’s home
* 4/1: Pete Ingram: ‘To clear myself, I’d tell on my momma’
* 3/31: Co-defendant: ‘My uncle killed that man’
* 3/31: Defendant’s nephew: My uncle did it
* 3/30: 911 calls replayed, detectives questioned
* 3/30: Victim’s wife of defendant: ‘He was our friend’
* 3/27: Alternates selected, opening statements set for Monday
* 3/26: Medical emergency delays murder trial
* 3/25: ‘At a particular place at a particular time’
* 3/25: Jury set in murder trial of Norman General Store owner
* 3/25: Prospective juror caught up in gambling ring
* 3/24: Race becomes an issue in jury selection
* 3/24: Defense works from “presumption of innocence”
* 3/23: Jury selection begins in murder trial

ROCKINGHAM — On this, Assistant District Attorney Dawn Layton and attorneys arguing in defense of murder suspect Alexander Ingram agree: It’s up to Layton to prove to the 12 members of the jury that Ingram is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

That’s where the point of agreement ends, however, and the areas of disagreement begin.

Alexander Ingram

Alexander Ingram

In her 26-minute closing argument on Monday afternoon in Courtroom E on the third floor of the Richmond County Judicial Center, Layton said the story of the state’s star witness — co-defendant Pete Ingram, who is being charged with first degree murder and robbery with a dangerous weapon but being tried separately — is supported by physical evidence.

The only person excluded from holding the hammer, Layton noted, was Pete Ingram. Forensic biologist Michelle Hannon couldn’t rule out his uncle, Alexander Ingram, in the beating death of former Norman General Store owner Michael Leverne Collins Sr.

That doesn’t mean Alexander Ingram did it, argued defense attorneys Frank Wells and Stephen Freedman. They shared closing argument duties and in a combined 76-minute argument, they two said just because Pete Ingram’s DNA wasn’t found on the hammer, agreed by all to be the murder weapon, doesn’t mean he couldn’t have been wearing gloves.

There are plenty of holes in the story that Layton is trying to convince is true, the defense said. Wells said that the burden of proving Alexander Ingram’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt is a difficult burden to have bestowed on each juror. He tried to explain just what “beyond a reasonable doubt” means.

Henry Thomas "Pete" Ingram is a co-defendant, charged along with his uncle, Alexander Ingram, with first degree murder and robbery with a dangerous weapon in the death of Michael Leverne Collins Sr. Pete Ingram is being tried separately.

Henry Thomas “Pete” Ingram is a co-defendant, charged along with his uncle, Alexander Ingram, with first degree murder and robbery with a dangerous weapon in the death of Michael Leverne Collins Sr. Pete Ingram is being tried separately.

Wells said Superior Court Judge Richard T. Brown is likely to tell jurors, when he instructs them on the law Tuesday morning before deliberation begins, that it means “doubt based on reason.”

“That’s true,” Wells said, “but it’s not particularly helpful.”

The phrase means “somewhere between silly and certain” and, Wells said emphatically, “there are doubts in this case.”

Jurors must have the “utmost certainty” of his client’s guilt, and “certainty means ‘sure thing.'”

The way Wells and Freedman tell it, the state’s version of the facts is anything but certain. They allege sloppy police work — no one ever executed a search warrant or visited the home of Henry Thomas “Pete” Ingram, which he shared with his mother in Candor, for the clothing he might have worn the night of the murder on Nov. 26, 2012.

Instead, roughly 12 hours after the murder, Pete Ingram acknowledged he changed at least a shirt or jacket while being questioned by investigators inside the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office on Nov. 27, 2012. But no one ever went to go get it. No one questioned what else, if anything, Pete Ingram might have changed before returning to his mother’s home and being picked up by law enforcement.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Assistant District Attorney Dawn Layton.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Assistant District Attorney Dawn Layton.

Former Sheriff’s Office Detective Robert Heaton admitted he “forgot” to go get the clothing or search warrant for the home after Pete Ingram said he could lead authorities to the murder weapon. Jay Childers, captain of the criminal investigation division, said on the stand that it was his call to not pursue a search warrant for Pete Ingram’s residence — which the defense contends might have contained not only blood-soaked clothing but the wallet and possibly the cash, between $400 and $500, that Collins is said to have had in his wallet at the time of the murder.

“Stop and think, what’s the next question any sensible person would ask,” Freedman asked rhetorically before providing the answer: “Tell me what Henry Thomas Ingram’s clothes looked like. We all know the importance of looking at and testing the clothing of Henry Thomas Ingram. Detective Heaton knew it was important. But Detective Heaton forget.”

The defense alleges that Pete Ingram used the money from Collins’ wallet to buy crack cocaine in the hours after the murder. The defense also alleges Pete Ingram suffers from blackouts, and that during these episodes he can sometimes become violent. The defense alleged that Pete Ingram’s mother once called the cops on her son because of his behavior and “he doesn’t remember any of it.”

Kevin Spradlin| PeeDeePost.com Alexander Ingram

Kevin Spradlin| PeeDeePost.com
Alexander Ingram

Layton, for her part, seemed to go through a checklist of issues on which she felt jurors might need some convincing. She said Pete Ingram’s blue jeans, the ones he wore to the sheriff’s office on Nov. 27, 2012, had only a “smudge” of blood on them.

But Layton said Pete Ingram, who has been confined since Nov. 27, 2012, has told jurors “what happened that night.”

“Y’all saw Pete,” Layton said to jurors. “What he said happened in that store has not changed.”

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Defense attorneys Stephen Freedman, left, and Frank Wells, right, confer with Alexander Ingram, their client and the defendant in a murder trial in the death of Michael Leverne Collins Sr.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Defense attorneys Stephen Freedman, left, and Frank Wells, right, confer with Alexander Ingram, their client and the defendant in a murder trial in the death of Michael Leverne Collins Sr.

 

 

 

Filed in: Ellerbe/Norman, Featured News, Latest Headlines, News, Public safety, Rockingham

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