HILLSBOROUGH - It was difficult to sit through gruesome details of Josh Bailey’s murder, but a jury foreman said hearing from Bailey’s parents was unexpected and emotional.
“I tried to steel myself as best as I could,” said Stephen Clossick, a bookkeeper from Chapel Hill.
“I was moved especially by Josh’s mom’s words, about what their life was together.
“For the jurors like me who had kids … (it was) trying to figure out how to communicate to them the story that we heard and let them know that you’ve really got to watch the people that you are going to be hanging out with,” he said.
Clossick said the jurors were reasonably sure Brian Minton was responsible for what happened; the question was when it was decided that Bailey should die. Clossick theorized that, like a dimmer switch slowly turned up until you suddenly realize the light is on, no one said stop, so the situation continued to escalate until Bailey was killed.
Juror Zoe Gillenwater, a Chapel Hill web designer, called it “a really cold-blooded murder.”
“I don’t want to be in (the killers’) heads; I don’t want to think about that sort of thing in detail,” she said. “But I think that we did what we were asked to do.”
The jury found Minton, 21, guilty Tuesday after taking nearly five hours to review a month of evidence and testimony.
Midway through their deliberation, the jury prompted speculation in the courtroom by asking Judge Orlando Hudson if a not-guilty verdict had to be unanimous and asking to see defense evidence.
Defense attorney James Glover did not offer evidence or testimony, but Clossick said they wanted to see investigation transcripts that Glover referred to in his cross-examinations. Since those weren’t submitted into evidence, they were not available for review.
Gillenwater and Clossick said they asked about a not-guilty verdict because they wanted to be sure to have their facts straight before making a decision.
“I think that’s good we stopped and answered that question, because we would have felt really stupid if we had come out and said, oh, no, we actually weren’t unanimous, and they said … you have a hung jury,” Clossick said.
They quickly decided Minton was guilty of first-degree kidnapping and felony murder, which only requires him to commit a felony crime at the time of the murder, the jurors said. They were divided about whether he intended Bailey’s death, required for first-degree murder, they said.
“In the deliberation room, we were trying to convince each other, but in a cordial way,” Gillenwater said. “We weren’t getting mad or beating up on each other.”
Heather Preston, a full-time nanny from Hillsborough, said the jurors got along well after spending so much time together. Some carpooled and ate lunch together, and they exchanged email addresses after the trial, she said.
But each juror made his or her decision differently, Gillenwater said.
“For me, Ryan Lee’s testimony was really important in terms of what he said happened in the woods and specifically the direction that Brian Minton gave to (Jacob) Maxwell to give the gun to Matt (Johnson) and to shoot,” Gillenwater said.
Preston said she had an early feeling Minton wasn’t trustworthy.
“I just got chills every time Brian Minton would look over at the jury, and every time another witness came and testified, that feeling just got stronger and stronger,” she said.
“I know that one or more (witnesses) weren’t telling the truth the entire time … but I believed them that it was a bad situation and that Brian Minton was the one spearheading it,” she said.Lawyer apologizes
Minton’s lawyer turned to Bailey’s parents after Tuesday’s verdict and apologized.
“From me and from Brian, I am sorry about Josh,” Glover said.
“It is a shame.”
Minton said nothing, hanging his head before being sentenced for first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping and first-degree conspiracy to commit murder and kidnapping. He will serve life in prison without parole – the only possible punishment under state law – and another 28 to 35 years for kidnapping and conspiracy.
Glover argued during the trial that Minton only wanted to scare, not kill, Bailey when he drove his bound 20-year-old victim and others to some woods outside Carrboro July 29, 2008.
Minton will ask for a public defender and appeal his conviction, Glover said. He is now living at the Polk Correctional Institute in Butner.
Prosecutors argued Minton supplied the gun and ordered Matt Johnson to kill Bailey, whom they suspected of stealing or snitching to police about the group’s illegal activities. They also suspected Johnson, witnesses said.
District Attorney Jim Woodall said Minton deserved the strictest possible sentence, based on the case, his previous felony convictions for possession with intent to sell and deliver cocaine and possession of a weapon of mass destruction, and because he was on supervised probation at the time.
“Frankly, we never know how the laws are going to change, and I believe Brian Minton is extremely dangerous,” Woodall said.
Hudson addressed Minton’s attorney before ruling.
“Mr. Glover, you told us at one of the breaks you’ve been practicing law for 40 years. I’ve been a judge for 27 years, and this is as cold-blooded a killing as I have seen in 27 years,” Hudson said.Life in jail
Gillenwater and Preston said their decision wasn’t easy.
“The idea of him spending the rest of his life in jail is sad, and I really wish that he was not the type of person where I felt that was a good thing,” Preston said, noting she and her husband are close to Minton’s age.
She felt better when Orange County Investigator Tim Horne visited the jurors after the trial to tell them about Minton’s other convictions, she said. The jury was sent from the courtroom during those discussions.
Clossick said they will meet Horne for lunch next week to reconnect and talk about the trial.
Woodall hasn’t scheduled the remaining cases. Six men, including Minton, were charged with kidnapping and murder. Three others are charged with being an accessory to murder after the fact, including Minton’s parents, Greg and Mishele Minton.
Mishele Minton sat through much of the trial – from time to time with her husband – just a few feet from Bailey’s family. At times, she would shake her head during witness testimony or joke with friends. Greg Minton often looked at his son, sitting two rows ahead.
Neither showed emotion Tuesday during sentencing or when Julie Bailey talked to them about her son’s murder. Bailey chastised them for letting underage teens use alcohol and drugs at their home, for letting their son have loaded guns and for teaching him to be a drug “entrepreneur.”
She and her husband, Steve, will be there for every trial, Julie Bailey said. They are grateful but find no comfort in seeing their son’s killer brought to justice, she said.
“There’s just finally justice for Josh, but I don’t think anyone could ever say there’s been joy in this process,” Julie Bailey said.