Still Enough to Convict
by Ron Davis
A surveillance camera installed at a North Carolina shopping center has helped convict a man accused of robbing one of the center’s tenants at gunpoint.
The shopping center, Spring Branch Junction in Hampstead, leases restaurant space to the tenant, Pizzas U2, and the robbery occurred late one evening nearly two years ago. The owner of Pizzas U2 said at the time of the robbery, a person wearing a bandana to cover his face and a white shirt walked into her restaurant, pulled a gun, and demanded money. She added that she also noticed that he had “long fingers and very dark skin on his fingers.”
The owner of the shopping center had installed video surveillance cameras at three locations on the property, and one captured the image of a black male that evening just prior to the robbery and just outside Pizzas U2. The videotape showed that the black male wore a white, untucked shirt. That same videotape showed that a few minutes later, the black male entered the restaurant, then left a few minutes later with a gun in one hand and money in the other.
An employee of Pizzas U2 at work on the evening of the robbery said he recognized the suspect from two still photographs retrieved from the videotape. The employee said he had seen the suspect outside Pizzas U2 just prior to the robbery.
An arrest occurred later that evening. From information provided by witnesses, a sheriff’s deputy stopped and questioned a black male who was in the vicinity of the shopping center and who met the description of the suspect. She said the suspect “began running,” but she eventually arrested him at his home. She also said that after watching the shopping center’s videotape, she believed the person she arrested was the same person shown leaving the restaurant. The deputy also identified the suspect from two still photographs retrieved from the videotape.
Even though a copy of the incriminating videotape was lost prior to the suspect’s trial, the two still photographs were available to the jury and witnesses who testified against him. That jury convicted him of armed robbery. He appealed, arguing that lack of the videotape should allow him to go free.
A North Carolina appellate court pointed out, however, that a meaningful review of the case is possible without the videotape. “Moreover,” added the judge, “he was identified from the still photographs produced from the video.” (State v. McIver, 630 S.E.2d 743 [N.C.App.])
Decision: June 2006
Published: July 2006