A Recap Of Rayquan Borum's Trial
After a lengthy jury selection process, the trial of Rayquan Borum finally started this week. Borum faces a first-degree murder charge in the death of Justin Carr. Carr was shot the second night of protests that erupted in Charlotte in the wake of the police shooting death of Keith Scott in September of 2016.
The jury heard testimony from numerous prosecution witnesses including a detective who interviewed Borum after his arrest, a crime scene investigator who collected evidence outside of the Omni Hotel where Carr was shot, and a man who testified he was feet away from Borum when he fired a gun. Then, proceedings came to a halt on Wednesday when it was revealed there’s a phone recording of Borum making a threat against Judge Gregory Hayes.
WFAE’s Sarah Delia has been in court all week and joined "Morning Edition" host Lisa Worf to discuss the behind-the-scenes details on what happened.
Lisa Worf: So Sarah, where do proceedings stand after this threat was discovered to Judge Hayes?
Sarah Delia: It was a pretty sobering day in court on Wednesday. There was a very long lunch break —almost 4 hours — before Judge Hayes came back to his bench and had the state and defense explain what transpired throughout the day.
Prosecutor Glenn Cole said it came to the state’s attention that Borum had placed a jailhouse call on Feb. 20 to a number belonging to his mother Gail Borum, asking the person on the other end of the line to take down a name and to give it to certain people because he had a trial coming up. Jury selection was still underway for his trial at that point during that phone call.
[Related Content: Phone Threat Made Against Judge Disrupts Testimony In Borum Trial]
Gail Borum is also listed as a potential witness for the defense in this case. Glen Cole said he believed Borum made the call because he thought the trial wasn’t going to go his way even though the call was from Feb. 20.
"Well, your honor had already made important rulings at that point," Cole said, "That the entirety of his jail interview was going to be allowed to be admitted and that his jail call is subject to authentication, which your honor has seen today how we will authenticate this and all the other phone calls that he made."
The defense made two motions — one that there be a mistrial and the second for Judge Hayes to recuse himself because, defense attorney Mark Simmons argued, it would be hard for Hayes to remain impartial after hearing the call.
"We find ourselves in a unique situation," Simmons said. "I understand that a mistrial — especially this deep into a trial that has lasted two-and-a-half weeks at this point — is an extreme remedy, but this is an extreme situation that I think the court must consider."
Ultimately, Judge Hayes ruled there would be no mistrial but he would refer the motion for recusal to Superior Court Judge Bob Bell who will rule on that Friday morning. I asked the prosecution what would happen if Judge Bell rules that Judge Hayes should, in fact, recuse himself. The short answer is no one knows.
Worf: And the jury had no idea this was going on correct?
Delia: Right. So there’s this legitimately serious discussion going on that the jury has no idea about and it’s important it stays that way. Judge Hayes has brought the jury back before recessing for the day Wednesday and told them that the legal matter that took up the entire day would very likely be reported on, so it was more important than ever to stay away from the news and social media.
Worf: What other moments have stood out to you in court this week?
Delia: Justin Carr’s family has been coming to court every day — including Vivian Carr (his mother) and her other two sons, one who lives out of town. A lot of the evidence the state is presenting is video from the night Carr was injured. Some of that is city or CMPD footage that isn’t close up, but other video is from people who were on the ground when the shooting occurred.
Video evidence from Rasheed Ali, a documentarian who was recording the protests, was submitted into evidence. He was outside the Omni Hotel. When a loud bang is heard, you can see him searching for anyone who may have been injured and he eventually walks to up to a group of people huddled around Carr. The video is graphic. It shows Carr on the ground and he’s bleeding from his head, clearly hurt.
Justin Carr’s family reacted to this footage. Vivian Carr had her head and her hands, her sons were comforting her. Members of the family were trying to compose themselves as this video played.
There are lots of photos being shown as evidence — like a photo of Justin Carr’s driver’s license, photos of clothing and images of blood on the ground. Watching the family take in these images, you can see them reliving the loss of Carr over and over again.
Worf: Any other details that stick out to you?
Delia: I think it’s worth pointing out the abundant concern about media coverage. That’s why the jury selection process was so slow — because people had to be individually interviewed about their media consumption on this case. Every day, Judge Hayes has emphasized the importance of staying away from news reports.
An example of how seriously they are taking that instruction occurred on Wednesday. An alternate juror let the judge know he overheard some comments made by people at lunch that were about the case. He didn’t see who made the comments and was questioned by both the state and defense about what he heard. Ultimately, it wasn’t a big deal and he is staying on as an alternate. But I think that’s a good example of how serious these jurors are taking this process.
This jury, by the way, is made up of 8 women — four African American, two white, one Hispanic and one Indian — as well as four white men.
And there are still lots of witnesses we are waiting to hear from. On the defense’s list, city councilman Braxton Winston — who was at the forefront of the protests that night — could be called up as a witness. Winston, of course, wasn’t in office at the time of the protests.
WFAE’s Sarah Delia is covering the trial of Rayquan Borum. She’ll be at the recusal hearing for Judge Gregory Hayes Friday. Check in for updates.