NC Court of Appeals upholds Lumberton man's murder conviction

·4 min read

Jun. 2—RALEIGH — The North Carolina Court of Appeals has refused to overturn a Lumberton man's conviction on charges of first-degree murder and robbery with a dangerous weapon.

The three-judge panel did overturn Walter McKoy's conviction on the charge of discharging a firearm in city limits during a hearing that took place April 13. The court's ruling was filed Tuesday.

McKoy was convicted on all three charges on May 10, 2019, in Robeson County Superior Court. He was sentenced that same day to life in prison by Judge Robert F. Floyd Jr. for the death on March 31, 2015, of 21-year-old William Covington.

On the first-degree murder charge, McKoy's lawyer, William D. Spence, argued the trial court erred in denying his client's motion to dismiss the charge because the prosecution did not disprove his theory of self-defense and the prosecution presented insufficient evidence of the elements of premeditation and deliberation.

The Appeals Court panel disagreed.

"In addition, the State presented evidence contradicting Defendant's statements about how he shot the victim," the ruling reads in part. "Defendant claimed he was leaning away from Mr. Covington to his right and fired his gun from his waist at a downward angle. But the physical evidence along with testimony from the medical examiner and responding police officers tended to show Mr. Covington was shot in the right side of his head, near his ear, three times, indicating he was sitting upright and looking straight ahead. The location of Mr. Covington's fatal wounds contradicted Defendant's testimony that he fired from his waist at a downward angle. Responding officers also testified that Mr. Covington's body was found facing forward — not toward the right or in an offensive position, as Defendant claimed.

"Viewing the conflicting evidence of self-defense — including Defendant's own statements to police — in the light most favorable to the State, the first-degree murder charge properly went to the jury to resolve."

The Appeals Court judges also dismissed Spence's argument that the trial judge erred by not dismissing the charge of robbery with a dangerous weapon.

The ruling reads, "Based on our precedent and viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the State, we hold the trial court did not err in denying Defendant's motion to dismiss the charge of robbery with a dangerous weapon."

The judges did find that copies of Lumberton's ordinance related to discharging a weapon inside city limits and proposed trial court jury instruction were presented by the prosecution after the close of evidence.

"That was too late," the ruling reads.

The Appeals Court panel ruled the trial court erred and vacated the charge of discharging a weapon inside city limits.

However, the judicial panel did not see fit to grant McKoy another sentencing hearing.

"While we typically remand a case for a new sentencing hearing when one or more conviction consolidated for judgment is vacated, see, e.g., State v. Mello, 200 N.C. App. 561, 570, 684 S.E.2d 477, 483 (2009), we need not do so here as N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-1340.17(c) dictates that Defendant receive a sentence of life without parole," the ruling reads in part.

The shooting was the result of an argument over a missing firearm that took place earlier between McKoy and Covington, Senior Assistant District Attorney Martha Duvall said in the days after the 2019 trial. Covington was said to have given McKoy a firearm and the firearm was not returned.

On the day of the shooting, McKoy went to Covington's residence on Lambeth Street and the two men got into a vehicle to talk, Duvall said.

McKoy argued in court that once in the vehicle he put a firearm in his lap, Duvall said. McKoy also said at one point Covington began to pull a firearm from his coat pocket and he tried to stop Covington. The two men struggled and the firearm discharged during the struggle.

The trial jury rejected McKoy's argument.

The shooting took place on the 1900 block of Lambert Street. Detective Derek Evans, of the Lumberton Police Department, led the investigation. The detective was assisted by Erich Hackney, an investigator with the District Attorney's Office at the time.