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Opening Statements Made, Witnesses Testified In First Day Of Borum Trial

John D. Simmons
Charlotte Observer
Rayquan Borum in court on Monday.

Updated: 9 p.m.

Opening statements were heard in court Monday in the trial of Rayquan Borum. Borum faces a first-degree murder charge in the death of Justin Carr. Carr was killed the second night of protests that erupted in Charlotte in the aftermath of the police shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott in September 2016.

Prosecutor Glenn Cole started his remarks by walking over to Borum and locking eyes with him. He pointed at Borum and said he was responsible for Carr’s death. He then walked over to the jury and stated that while Borum didn’t intend to kill Carr, he did plan to kill a police officer. Borum was with a group of friends that night Cole said who made a choice.

“The men could have gone to the peaceful protest at the First Baptist Church just up the street from where we are right now. But they didn’t decide to do that,” Cole said. “Instead, they went to the law enforcement center where this defendant told his friend that he was going to shoot a police officer and he started chanting ‘kill cops’ and said that he might do it right there.”

Defense attorney Darlene Harris urged jurors to remember that the state has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Borum committed this crime.

“Now, let’s talk about what reasonable doubt is. Reasonable doubt is not ‘oh this guy seems like a bad guy’ – like that they got up here and tried to do, pointing at my client, spewing lies,” Harris said. “What they tried to do was paint my client as a bad guy. But that doesn’t make you a murderer.”

Witnesses who took the stand Monday included Vivian Carr, Justin Carr’s mother, a friend who was with Carr the night he was shot, a detective who interviewed Borum after his arrest, as well as a journalist who says he saw an African American male with dreadlocks shoot Carr that night.

Updated: 4 p.m.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Detective Richard Jones is currently on the stand. He is one of the two homicide detectives who questioned Rayqan Borum after his arrest. 

During the investigation of Carr’s death, Jones reviewed CMPD real-time crime footage that he says shows Borum running in multiple scenes of the video. He also identified a muzzle flash in the video, which is a visible blast of light that is seen after a firearm is shot.  

In opening statements this morning, prosecutor Glenn Cole said the state has a variety of video evidence that shows Borum shot Justin Carr. Cole stated that while Borum did not intend to kill Carr, he had told friends he intended to shoot a police officer that night. Borum’s defense team argued CMPD was quick to resolve Carr’s death and was too focused on getting a conviction without enough evidence. 

Updated: 1 p.m.

After a slow jury-selection process last week, testimony finally began Monday in the murder of trial of Rayquan Borum in Charlotte.   Borum is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Justin Carr, who was shot outside the Omni Hotel uptown during protests following the fatal police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott in September 2016.

Following opening statements, the jury heard from several witnesses, including a reporter for the online news outlet The Daily Beast, who was at the Omni at the time of the shooting.

Reporter Ryan James testified that he heard what he thought was a gunshot.  When he turned around, he said, he saw an African American man of average build with dreadlocks holding a pistol.

James said he saw the man turn and run. James called 911 and the next day went to CMPD headquarters to give a recorded statement. That statement is expected to be played when court is back in session at 2 p.m. Monday. 

Jury selection was completed on Friday after taking more than a week. Of the 12 jurors seated in the trial, eight are women and four are men. Six jurors are white, four are black, one is Hispanic and one is Indian.

Judge Gregory Hayes ruled after a special hearing Monday morning that Carr’s mother, Vivian Carr, would be allowed to testify.   Defense lawyers had filed a motion last week to exclude her testimony, arguing that she wasn’t there the night her son was killed. They worried that her testimony would be emotional and sway the jury. 

After opening statements, Vivian Carr gave brief, yet emotional testimony in which she referred to Carr as her “baby boy.” She said when she spoke to her son the night he was killed, he described the protests as peaceful. She testified that the next time she saw her son was at the hospital, where he was in a coma.

Johnathan Covington, a close friend of Justin Carr, was also called by the state Monday morning. Covington testified that he was about a foot away from Carr when he was injured.

Sarah Delia is a Senior Producer for Charlotte Talks with Mike Collins. Sarah joined the WFAE news team in 2014. An Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist, Sarah has lived and told stories from Maine, New York, Indiana, Alabama, Virginia and North Carolina. Sarah received her B.A. in English and Art history from James Madison University, where she began her broadcast career at college radio station WXJM. Sarah has interned and worked at NPR in Washington DC, interned and freelanced for WNYC, and attended the Salt Institute for Radio Documentary Studies.