New trial ordered for man convicted as teen in North Carolina death

Published 4:02 pm Wednesday, March 16, 2022

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A Friday decision from the North Carolina Supreme Court decision will allow a man convicted as a teenager in the death of a cab driver more than 25 years ago to have a new trial.

Associate Justice Anita Earls, writing the majority opinion, reversed a Court of Appeals declaration that a lower court judge had erred when ordering a new trial for Utaris Mandrell Reid based on newly discovered evidence.

Reid, now 40, was convicted of first-degree murder and common law robbery for the assault and ultimate death of John Graham in late 1995. Reid was 14 at the time of the attack in Sanford and was sentenced to life in prison without parole in 1997. Charges against three other juveniles were ultimately dismissed.

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Court documents that Reid filed in 2011 included an affidavit from a childhood friend who said he was at his mother’s house with Reid the night of Graham’s assault. The friend also said that another person had confessed to him that he and two others — all named — had robbed and assaulted Graham.

Superior Court Judge C. Winston Gilchrist ordered a new trial in 2018 based on what he said was “credible” and “newly discovered evidence as defined by law.” The decision was overturned by the Court of Appeals.

Chief Justice Paul Newby wrote in a dissenting opinion that the Court of Appeals decision should stand because Reid had failed to persuade that he had taken reasonable steps though his attorney to locate the childhood friend’s testimony before his trial.