Darrell Maness was sentenced to death by the State of North Carolina for the murder of a police officer. According to court documents Darrell Maness was pulled over on a traffic stop and would fatally shoot Boiling Spring Lakes police Officer Mitch Prince. Darrell Maness would be arrested, convicted and sentenced to death
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A long nightmare came to an end Tuesday for the family of Mitch Prince.
Another is just beginning for Darrell W. Maness.
After initial confusion about the nature of his punishment, a Brunswick County Superior Court jury recommended that Maness, 20, receive the death penalty for shooting Boiling Spring Lakes police Officer Prince to death during a traffic stop early Jan. 18, 2005, along a dark stretch of N.C. 87.
Family members of both the victim and defendant shed tears as 11 days of witness testimony and emotional arguments to the jury came to a close.
Maness cupped his face in his hands and looked down when he learned his fate. Maness will be processed at Central Prison in Raleigh and take his place as the state’s 173rd death row inmate.
“What Darrell Maness is going to be receiving is light compared to what Mitch received. Darrell’s going to see his family. Darrell Maness is going to get off light,” said Pam Prince, wife of the slain officer, after the defendant was escorted from the courtroom.
Pam and Mitch Prince were married for 13 years. The dedicated father of two was 36 when he died.
Maness “was 19 years old. He knew right from wrong. I hate it for his mom and his sister, but they’ve got to endure,” Prince said.
Maness’ mother, Annette Tidwell, broke into loud sobs as the jury’s recommendation was announced. On Friday, the seven-man, five-woman jury convicted Maness of first-degree murder. The sentencing phase of the trial lasted only two days and included testimony from Tidwell and other relatives, along with impassioned pleas by defense lawyers to spare Maness.
Tidwell quickly left the courtroom after the jury recommended death for her son. Others, including Maness’ grandmother and his sister, followed a few minutes later.
District Attorney Rex Gore told jurors during his opening statement that Maness was a “cold-blooded killer.” He said prosecutors are satisfied with the outcome of the trial.
“When you think of losing someone who is protecting us out there, and in such a senseless way, it reminds us of what our job is,” Gore said.
An appeal of the death verdict was automatically filed on behalf of Maness. It will be at least a decade before all of his appeals are exhausted. One of them could focus on a false ray of hope for Maness about an hour after jurors began deliberating.
The seven-man, five-woman jury returned to the courtroom about noon, apparently with a decision. A clerk announced a jury recommendation of life without parole.
Tidwell held her hands together, as if in prayer, and embraced her daughter. The Prince family appeared stunned.
When each juror was polled by presiding Judge D. Jack Hooks Jr., a different picture emerged. Eight jurors appeared to favor the death penalty and only four life in prison. Hooks directed the jury to continue deliberations. He denied defense motions for a mistrial because the jury was tainted by witnessing reactions in the courtroom.
Jurors might have been confused by the wording of instructions that directed panel members to consider if aggravating circumstances favoring the death penalty outweighed mitigating ones supporting a prison sentence of life without parole.
To Larry Prince, the victim’s father, the jury couldn’t have made a recommendation other than death.
Prince said he awakens every night about 1 a.m., about the time Mitch Prince was killed.
“Hopefully, the nightmares will subside,” he said. “I was always there to provide and take care of him, and I couldn’t take care of my son. That is destroying me. I want to help him so bad, but I can’t help him.”
Defense lawyers used all the resources at their disposal to sway the jury toward choosing life in prison without parole. A psychiatrist’s testimony focused on Maness’ attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, marijuana addiction and details of a troubled upbringing in Alamance County by a cocaine-addicted mother and alcoholic grandparents.
Jurors also considered the haunting fact that Maness grew up knowing his father was serving a life term in prison for killing a retired police officer in 1986.
Larry Prince, still overcome with a father’s grief, didn’t accept any of the defense arguments.
“It’s absolutely the same as me or anyone else. Be accountable for what you do,” he said.
Prince’s family members weren’t the only ones deeply affected by his death. Others included Prince’s colleagues at the Boiling Spring Lakes Police Department, where a memorial plaque was dedicated last year.
“Twelve good people deemed Darrell Maness beyond redemption. Darrell Maness challenged life with anger and violence. He will reap the consequences of his actions each and every day of his incarcerated life. It will not be a tragedy when this man is put to death,” Boiling Spring Lakes Police Chief Richard White said in a prepared statement.
Pam Prince said she discussed the concept of the death penalty with her teenage children, and both thought it appropriate for Maness.
“Mitch favored the death penalty,” she said.
Assistant District Attorney Lee Bollinger summed up the views of the law enforcement community:
“It’s the right result. If you kill a police officer in cold blood, it ought to be the result every time,” he said.
Maness was also convicted of seven other felonies in connection with his actions after Prince was shot, including firing Prince’s gun at three other police officers. In addition to the death penalty, he was given up to 55 additional years in prison, prosecutors said.
Larry Prince said he was concerned at first that the memory of his son would fade from the public consciousness.
“My biggest fear was that he would be forgotten, but no, he will never be forgotten in Brunswick County. He touched too many lives,” Prince said.