For the second time in less than a week Danny Hembree attempted to have his guilty verdict on first-degree murder set aside.
A Gaston County jury convicted Hembree of first-degree murder Nov. 8. Jurors are now listening to testimony to determine if Hembree will be sentenced to death or life in prison for the October 2009 slaying of 17-year-old Heather Catterton.
Defense attorneys Brent Ratchford and Rick Beam made a motion Monday morning to throw out the verdict. The basis for the motion was that some jurors could’ve been influenced by members of Catterton’s family while taking smoke breaks.
Superior Court Judge Beverly Beal called five jurors into the jury box individually. He asked each of the five smokers if they had been approached by anyone involved in the case while taking smoke breaks. Each said they had not had any such encounters, and Beal in turn denied the motion.
Hembree, 49, appeared docile throughout the trial until the day after jurors handed down the guilty verdict.
The following morning Hembree refused to get dressed and come to court.
Beal ultimately ordered the defendant to come to court. Once before the judge Hembree expressed dissatisfaction with how his trial was conducted. He said his attorneys had not provided him with all of the evidence, and he considered himself to be an active participant in his trial.
Hembree made a motion to have the verdict thrown out because of inadequate representation.
Gaston County District Attorney Locke Bell objected to the motion, stating that Beam and Ratchford gave the prosecution a run for their money in the lengthy trial.
Beal denied the motion, and the sentencing phase of the trial began.
The prosecution called a number of people to the stand. The men and women, clerks at various businesses in Gaston and Mecklenburg counties, testified that Hembree robbed them at gunpoint. The robberies were presented to the jury to show a pattern of behavior by Hembree to consistently commit violent crimes, according to the prosecution.
The defense began presenting its case in the sentencing phase of the trial Monday morning.
The first witness was a forensic psychologist who has reviewed Hembree’s psychological disorders.