Spencer Bid Turned Down

Published 11:07 am Sunday, April 25, 1993

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On Thursday morning, Clifton Eugene Spencer was denied his day in court by Superior Court Judge Gary E. Trawick.

Judge Trawick, ruling in Dare Superior Court, found that on Jan., 8, 1991 when Spencer agreed to a enter a “no contest” plea to second degree murder charges, he had received effective attorney counsel by Greensboro lawyer Romallus Murphy.

With denial of the motion, Spencer, of Columbia, will not go to trial on the state’s charges that he murdered Manteo waitress Stacey Stanton in February 1990. Dare County defense attorney Edgar L. Barnes took exception to the judge’s ruling and noted that an appeal will be lodged.

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Judge Trawick listened to 16 witnesses during a day and a half of hearings on Spencer’s motion for appropriate relief. District Attorney H.P. Williams carried the state’s case.

In making his decision, Judge Trawick determined that Spencer initiated the conversation about accepting a plea. The judge relied on the testimony of Murphy, who stated that on Jan. 8, 1991, Spencer had demanded to know if the plea deal offered by the district attorney was still on. Additionally, the testimony of Spencer’s mother, Emma Jean Spencer, was pointed out by Judge Trawick, who said that she advised her son to take the plea.

In directing the facts that should be included in a draft order, Judge Trawick addressed the issue of timeliness by outlining, without specificity, what he regarded as the key dates: date of Spencer’s arrest, date Murphy was retained (early June). Murphy’s six visits with client, date Murphy filed his original motions (June 19 and 21), date the discovery was completed (Nov. 28) and that additional pre-trial motions were filed by Murphy on Jan. 7.

Judge Trawick also referred to the transcript of plea entered by now retired Judge Herbert Small. In that transcript, Judge Small found that Spencer accepted the plea freely, voluntarily and understandingly.

Spencer is now serving a life sentence in the Department of Corrections facility at Lillington. According to the N.C. Parole Commission, Spencer will be eligible for parole on May 27, 2000.

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