Boz Zellinger has a mailer out from his own campaign. It touts his experience as the “only Democratic Candidate who has tried criminal cases before a jury” and notes that he “[s]uccessfully prosecuted murderers, sexual predators, child abusers and other violent criminals; tried and convicted Jahaad Marshall, Joshua Stepp, Brad Cooper, William Scott Kean, and Amanda Hayes.” Click here or on the image below to see a larger version of the second page.
In addition, the flyer references Zellinger’s involvement – “convicted a corrupt defense attorney for destroying evidence and passing fraudulent orders” – in the James Crouch DWI scandal involving the tampering with court records that sent the former DWI lawyer to jail for nearly a year.
Crouch was convicted for submitting back-dated Driving While Impaired orders to a District Court judge so that his clients could avoid all or part of driving suspensions that result from a DWI conviction. Zellinger’s involvement at the sentencing hearing was one of the early signs that he was being prepared to run as a successor to former elected District Attorney Colon Willoughby.
It’s unclear how many homes the mailer went to. A source sent it to me. I did not receive it as I am not a Democrat. The mailer comes on the heels of a mailer sent out by SEANC’s political action committee – the North Carolina state employees union – in support of Zellinger. That mailer criticizes Zellinger’s primary opponent, Lorrin Freeman.
While Zellinger has tried some of the county’s most serious cases in the past three years, a couple things should be noted about the defendants who were tried, and convicted, and whose prosecutions Zellinger now touts.
First, Joshua Stepp’s conviction was overturned by the Court of Appeals in January. I was not present during the trial, but according to the Court of Appeals decision, the Defense argued that the jury should’ve been instructed on Stepp’s “affirmative defense that the penetration (of the victim) was for accepted medical purposes.” The Court of Appeals believed that Stepp was entitled to the instruction, and that the failure to give the instruction was reversible error. That case is now headed to the Supreme Court.
Second, Brad Cooper’s conviction has also been overturned by the Court of Appeals; Cooper is awaiting a new trial. The Court of Appeals decision centered around expert testimony excluded at trial by the judge, at Zellinger’s urging, that the appellate judges ruled prevented Cooper from receiving a fair trial.
Third, while it is true that Amanda Hayes was convicted of second degree murder in a trial prosecuted by Zellinger, it is also true that the state had actually sought a First Degree Murder conviction. In fact, the state of Texas recently announced the indictment of Amanda Hayes on illegal body disposal charges precisely because she was not convicted in North Carolina of a crime involving a life sentence.