Convicted Murderer Spencer Seeks Hearing To Review 1990 Dare Crime

Published 10:26 am Sunday, June 21, 1992

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By Linda Putnam, The Coastland Times

Citing an erosion of his rights during questioning and incompetent assistance of counsel during the legal process, Clifton Eugene Spencer, convicted on a plea of no contest to charges of second-degree murder of Manteo waitress, Stacey Stanton on Feb. 3, 1990, has filed papers requesting “appropriate relief” in Dare County Superior Court.

Reviewing his claims, Judge Steve Michael disallowed two points of contention but ruled that the competence of his legal representation by Greensboro attorney R.O. Murphy should be investigated. The court has ordered that Edgar Barnes of the Dare County firm of Merrell, Tillett and Barnes, represent Spencer in this claim.

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Filing a handwritten petition on 77 pages of legal paper filed in Dare County, Spencer claims that he was picked up by a Tyrrell County deputy and taken to the Tyrrell County Sherriff’s Office where he was questioned. He was held in Tyrrell County, presumably on a fugitive warrant from New Jersey, and Spencer said several days after he was first interviewed, State Bureau of Investigation and Dare County officers removed him to the Dare County drug enforcement office at the airport on Roanoke Island and questioned him. While there, he said, his lawyer was not present, and when he asked to call his attorney, the SBI officer said he would call, but did not call in his presence. He charges that he was given to understand that he had to

go with the officers, but that they had no authority to remove him from Tyrrell County without his consent.

Spencer claims that he never signed any confession, and that the arrest warrant was based only on statements from the officers that he made such a statement. He says the purpose of removing him from Tyrrell County was to get him away from his family and attorney and to intimidate him into making damaging statements. While he was at the Dare County office, he

claims a rifle was left beside him in the room where he was being held and that officers were not present at that time.

He said his attorney did not press on with certain motions which were begun after he was returned to this state from New Jersey where he had pleaded guilty to cocaine possession.

He said Murphy did not challenge the state’s contentions that he had confessed to the murder, even in the absence of written or taped evidence, forcing him into a plea bargaining position.

The plea bargain was not any kind of a break for him, Spencer alleges, because in the absence of evidence showing premeditation, first-degree murder would have been ruled out at the trial


Spencer also claims innocence in the murder. “What is known by the defendant and God,” he wrote, “is that the assailant is not in the prison system where he belongs.”

When Spencer was sentenced in January 1991, less than a year after Stacey Stanton’s bloody, slashed body was found in her Manteo apartment, the state did not call any of the investigating

officers to testify. In serious cases, the investigators usually testify and the defendant’s attorney call question them and bring forth the facts surrounding the investigation. Spencer said that his attorney did not protest this nor insist on the officers being present for questioning, that instead, a summary of the officers’ statements indicating his confession were read. He identifies this as one piece of evidence indicating that he was not well-represented and claims that the

district attorney did not have the investigators testify because he did not have confidence in the evidence.

He also claims that his attorney led him to believe that he would probably serve less time on a life sentence than on one specifying a set number of years, and he writes that he thinks this is not true.

Contacted at his office, attorney Barnes said he had not made up his mind about whether Spencer got competent legal representation or not, but that he had communicated with Murphy and was going to meet with him.

When the matter comes to a hearing, Barnes said, his client would have to prove that he did not have effective representation. “We ‘ve got every bit of the burden in this case.” he said.

“In my mind I have a question. There are a lot of unanswered questions in this case.” Barnes said he has seen no written, signed confession.

Because of the distances involved, Barnes said he might be asking for an investigator. Spencer is at Lillington Correctional Center, and Barnes said it would help if he was at Creswell Getting

the matter to the point of a court hearing will take in the range of six months, he said.

Two of Spencer’s allegations, that his constitutional rights were violated by the overbearing use of government power, and that the connection was obtained in violation of his fifth amendment rights were not allowed.

Twenty-eight year-old Stacey Stanton was found dead in her Manteo apartment on Ananias Dare Street on the afternoon of February 3 when a co-worker went to see why she did not show up for her 2 p.m. shift at a Manteo restaurant. There was no sign of forced entry. Spencer admitted to being in her apartment that night but claims never to have admitted to killing Miss Stanton.

A Dare County grand jury indicted Spencer in March 1990, and he was returned from New  Jersey in June after waiving extradition.

To see the scans of the archived newspaper page where this article appeared, click here.