Court grants man new trial on kidnap charge

First Posted: 9/3/2014

LUMBERTON — A judge has ruled that a Fairmont man convicted of kidnapping and nearly beating a man to death in 2005 is entitled to a new trial on the kidnapping charge.

Gary Maurice Walters, 35, was convicted in June 2013 of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury and first-degree kidnapping for beating Paul Franklin, then 42 years old.

According to a North Carolina Court of Appeals ruling, Walters beat Franklin with a wooden table leg at Lumberton’s now-demolished Redwood Inn in a dispute over the value of some crack cocaine Walters had sold to Franklin. Walters then drove Franklin to Pembroke and left him by the Lumber River near Three Bridges Road.

Every bone in Franklin’s face was broken and he was hospitalized in critical condition, the ruling said. He continues to suffer from optic nerve damage and scarring.

In the North Carolina Court of Appeals’ ruling on Tuesday, Walters and his attorney asked for a new trial on the basis that his right to a speedy trial had been violated and that jurors were not properly instructed when considering whether he was guilty of kidnapping.

Although Judge Sam Ervin said in the court ruling that the 85-month delay before Walters’ trial was “exceedingly disturbing,” he said it was not caused by neglect or an unwillingness on the part of the prosecution.

According to the opinion, Walters asked for a continuance in the case in June 2007 and again in January 2008 to obtain DNA testing. He also agreed to a continuance requested by the state for the same purpose in August 2008.

The case was scheduled for trial in October 2009 but was again delayed because a detective involved in the case needed shoulder surgery. It was not called for trial until June 2013 because of “congested trial calendars in the Robeson County Superior Court,” the opinion said. Walters did not assert his right to a speedy trial until September 2012.

Walters’ argued that he did not take Franklin from the Redwood Inn in order to continue assaulting him. A jury at his 2013 trial was told it could find him guilty of kidnapping if he had assaulted Franklin after leaving the motel or if Franklin was taken from the hotel so that Walters could elude arrest.

A three-judge panel on Tuesday overturned the kidnapping conviction against Walters, granting him a new trial, but not the attempted murder and assault convictions.