Man serving double life for Rowan County hit-and-run has judgment vacated due to failure of speedy trial

Court vacates Rowan Co. murder conviction, life sentence

ROWAN COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) - A man who is serving two life sentences for a 2012 deadly hit-and-run in Rowan County has had his judgment vacated because prosecutors failed to give him a speedy trial.

Khalil Abdul Farook was convicted in 2018 for an incident that happened in 2012. He was convicted of driving drunk and hitting a motorcycle on Airport Road in Rowan County. Two people, Tommy “Mark” Marshall Jones Jr., 47, and his wife, Suzette Burleson Jones, 48, were killed.

Farook was also convicted of second-degree murder in 1992. That made him eligible as a violent habitual felon and was given two consecutive life sentences plus an additional sentence of 29-44 months.

Farook appealed the trial court’s denial of his motions to dismiss his case for violation of his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial because of a more than six-year delay.

The State failed to carry its burden of proof as to the reason for delay in Farook’s trial, court documents say.

The court of appeals says Farook has demonstrated prejudice from this delay, therefore his right to a speedy trial was violated.

Based upon the delay of over six years from Farook’s arrest until his trial, because the State failed to carry its burden of presenting valid reasons for the delay, the North Carolina Court of Appeals is reversing the trial court’s order denying Farook’s motion to dismiss and vacating Farook’s judgment.

A timeline provided in the court documents provides a look at the sequence of events:

  • 31 July, 2012: Indictment.
  • 6 August 2012: Case was calendared for this week but counsel withdrew.
  • 8 August 2012: Mr. Davis appointed as counsel.
  • 13 August 2012: Defendant entered not guilty plea.
  • 18 February 2013: Defendant’s case was calendared but not reached.
  • 19 March 2013: Defendant’s case was calendared but not reached.
  • 16 April 2013: Defendant’s case was calendared. New assistant district attorney was assigned to the case.
  • 15 July 2015: Defendant’s case was calendared but not reached.
  • 13 February 2017: Defendant’s case was calendared but not reached. Assistant District Attorney was released from the case, and it was assigned to the Conference of District Attorneys.
  • 5 July 2017: Defendant was indicted for second degree murder, habitual felon, and violent habitual felon. Defendant’s case was calendared for the week and not reached. Mr. Bingham was appointed as defendant’s counsel and Mr. Sease was appointed to aid Mr. Bingham in going through discovery.
  • 29 August 2017: Defendant’s case was calendared but not reached.
  • 26 September 2017: Defendant’s case was calendared and not reached. Mr. Bingham withdrew and Mr. Sease became defendant’s attorney.
  • 8 January 2018: Defendant’s case was calendared but not reached. A tentative trial date was set for September 2018.

In conducting the analysis, the Court of Appeals said they found that every factor in the case weighs either in favor of Farook, against the State, or not clearly in favor of either party.

Court officials say the State did not meet its burden of explaining valid reasons for the six-year delay of trial.

"Even if we were to assume that Mr. Davis’s initial trial strategy of letting things “cool down” was proper for our consideration, this alleged strategy would explain less than half of the delay. Finally, the delay at issue here is so substantial that its duration alone speaks to prejudice, a reality only underlined by the State’s failure to justify or explain it," court documents read.

The Court of Appeals say they must therefore vacate Farook’s judgment due to a violation of his constitutional rights to a speedy trial.

This does not change his status in Central Prison yet, he is still serving his term, but the District Attorney says this opinion is not final until the Court of Appeals' mandate.

The NC Attorney General’s Office will make a decision during this interim time period whether or not they will petition the NC Supreme Court for further review.

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