Mikel Brady sentenced to death for Pasquotank Correctional murders
Published 10:17 pm Monday, October 28, 2019
After deliberating less than an hour, a Dare County jury recommended late Monday afternoon, October 28 that Mikel Edward Brady II be sentenced to death for his part in a failed escape attempt at Pasquotank Correctional Institute in Elizabeth City.
Brady, who admitted to being the “pack leader” during an earlier first phase of the trial, spent parts of two days on the witness stand explaining how he and three other inmates for several months planned, trained, prepared backpacks and then assembled supplies and weapons for what turned out to be the deadliest prison escape attempt in the history of North Carolina.
Brady also calmly provided intimate and gruesome details on how each of the victims were stabbed and beaten to death because he had to “do whatever it took” to escape.
It only took the same jury 35 minutes to find Brady guilty early last week on four counts of first-degree murder and 10 other charges related to the October 2017 escape attempt. Four prison employees – sewing plant manager Veronica Darden, maintenance worker Geoffrey Howe and correctional officers Justin Smith and Wendy Shannon – all died from injuries inflicted on them during the escape attempt. North Carolina law requires capital murder trials have separate sentencing phase to determine one of only two possible punishments: life imprisonment or death.
During closing arguments earlier this past Monday, District Attorney Andrew Womble opened with a brief review of “the wreckage and carnage brought about by Mikel Brady two years ago.”
Womble went on to say that the then 28-year-old Brady, who has a lengthy criminal history in Vermont and was at Pasquotank serving a 24 year sentence for the 2013 attempted murder of North Carolina Highway Patrolman Michael Potts, took advantage of a position of trust to lure three people to a heinous and cruel death and killed a fourth who walked into a planned and coordinated event.
“They were not human beings to Mikel Brady,” said Womble, with photos of each of the four victims lying in pools of blood projected on a large overhead screen. “They were not mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters or sons and daughters. They were just objects between him and freedom. They were things to get past.”
Continuing his closing arguments, Womble told the jury it would be asked to consider several mitigating factors, but he felt that beating someone to death with a claw hammer outweighs everything. He then asked the jury to consider the message a verdict would send to people working there every day.
“Mikel Brady didn’t just attack those four employees,” added Womble. “He attacked a principle, a system and our belief in the rule of law. If Mikel Brady is to live out a life in prison, it will be open season on correctional officers.”
During his 47 minutes of closing comments, defense attorney Thomas Manning recited a poem to the jurors saying “As the twig is bent, so goes the tree.”
Manning said also that Brady lived in a family with physical and emotional abuse until his father was murdered in 2002.
Portraying Brady as developmentally challenged from a very young age and in need of mental treatment and medication, none was provided by NC Department of Correction. In addition, two doctors provided testimony that Brady’s post traumatic stress disorder affects his decision making and his lack of medication impacted his thought process.
Manning said also that the conditions at the Department of Corrections and the lack of proper supervision are circumstances that led to Brady’s ability to plan and execute an escape attempt that cannot be ignored.
“The blame does not stop with Mikel Brady and his actions,” said Manning. “The failure of the Department of Corrections must be taken into account.”
With detailed instructions from Superior Court Judge Jerry Tillett, the jury was back in 52 minutes with a unanimous verdict that the defendant be sentenced to death in each of the four counts of the murder. Anything less than unanimous agreement would require the defendant be sentenced to life in prison.
Partially obscured from view by members of a Public Safety Adult Division Special Operation Response Team and local law enforcement officers, Brady appeared to sit quietly with little, if any, show of emotion as Judge Tillett read the jury’s recommendation and polled each member individually to confirm a recommendation of death. Tillett then announced that the sentence was death and that the defendant was to be transported to Raleigh for execution.
Manning and co-counsel Jack Warmack noted an appeal and the case will go now to the State Supreme Court for review.
For his other charges of felony assaults, attempted murder, attempted escape and burning a building, Brady was sentenced to 410 to 547 months in the custody of the NC Department of Corrections.
Following the trial, most family members of the victims, jury members and Brady’s defense lawyers declined requests for comments. Those family members that did speak said they were pleased that this part of the story is over. Three other inmates involved in the 2017 escape attempt – Wisezah Buckman, Seth Frazier and Jonathan Monk – are charged with similar offenses and are scheduled for trial after the first of the year.
Womble, who did speak with reporters after the trial, said “We are extremely pleased with the outcome of this case. We set out to seek justice for those four families for what happened on October 12, 2017. I think we told that story in a compelling manner. I think the jury saw this case for exactly what it was and the jury rendered the appropriate sentence.”
Womble said there was a reason Brady was the first of four inmates facing charges in this case to go to trial and while he was not surprised by the short time it took to read a guilty verdict, he did expect the sentencing verdict to take a little bit longer simply due to the number of questions that had to be answered.
Brady’s conviction makes him one of 143 offenders now on death row in North Carolina. Three offenders are women. The last execution in North Carolina was in August of 2006 and legal disputes have since led to an unofficial moratorium.