James Jaynes North Carolina Death Row
James Jaynes was sentenced to death by the State of North Carolina for robbery and murder. According to court documents James Jaynes would murder Paul Acker after weeks of stalking the victim. James Jaynes would be arrested, convicted and sentenced to death
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The State’s evidence tended to show inter alia that in October 1990, Paul Frederick Acker, the victim, was in the process of clearing land for a cattle farm. Several buildings, including a barn and a workshop, had already been built on the farm. Acker was living there alone in a mobile home until his house could be constructed. He kept numerous personal items as well as tools and equipment in his mobile home and in other buildings on the farm. He also owned a 1985 Volvo automobile and a 1988 Ford pickup truck.
Jerry Nelon was employed by Acker in the summer of 1990 to clear land off of Highway 108. Nelon’s work crew included prisoners on work release from the Spindale Prison Camp in Spindale, North Carolina. One of these men was Dan Marr.
Shane Smith testified at trial that he and defendant James Edward Jaynes had gone to school together. In February 1990, Smith began dating defendant’s cousin. From that time on, Smith and defendant saw each other often. Because defendant had moved away from home and had no car, he frequently asked Smith for transportation.
About three weeks prior to 10 October 1990, defendant informed Smith that Acker’s farm was a potential break-in site. Defendant asked Smith if he could borrow Smith’s car to locate the farm, but Smith refused. At this point, defendant informed Smith that Dan Marr had told him about the farm and had previously worked there. Smith took defendant to see Dan Marr, and the three of them discussed going to Acker’s farm. Following the discussion, Smith, accompanied by Marr and defendant, drove to the farm.
During the next two and one-half weeks, defendant and Smith made approximately four trips to Acker’s farm. They walked on the property and entered sheds, outbuildings, and Acker’s mobile home. During these trips, defendant and Smith observed personal property that they wanted to take for Marr and themselves.
On 10 October 1990, defendant went to Smith’s workplace. Defendant told Smith to pick him up at Philip Doster’s mobile home, which was located in the same mobile home complex where defendant lived. Smith picked up defendant at about 10:15 p.m., and they went to Acker’s farm in Polk County. Defendant was armed with both a .25-caliber pistol and a .22-caliber rifle.
At approximately 11:00 p.m., Smith and defendant arrived at Acker’s property. They parked about 250 yards from Acker’s mobile home and walked along the driveway toward it. When they reached the mobile home, they saw Acker’s Volvo and truck but saw no one outside the home. No lights were on inside, and the doors were closed. Defendant told Smith that he was going to knock on the front door and say that his car was stuck. He would then leave if anyone answered. Smith went to the rear of the mobile home to see if lights came on when defendant knocked on the door. Defendant knocked and asked if anyone was home. He then ceased knocking on the door, and for a few moments it was quiet.
Smith next heard a gunshot and saw a light come on in the mobile home. He heard defendant call his name, and he went around the home and entered the front. There, he saw Acker lying on his back and not moving. Smith also saw defendant holding the rifle and standing next to Acker’s body. Defendant put the rifle down and picked up the pistol. Thereafter, defendant fired at the victim’s body. Smith closed his eyes when the shots were fired. Defendant next gave Smith the pistol and ordered him to fire it. Smith fired once and then ran outside. A moment later, Smith heard two more shots fired from inside the mobile home. Defendant then came outside and warned Smith that he must not say anything about the events that had just occurred.
Defendant then reentered the mobile home, while Smith stayed on the front porch. Smith asked defendant to cover the body. Defendant laughed and stated that “it was no big deal.” Thereafter, defendant covered the body with a blanket.
Next, defendant asked Smith to drive Acker’s truck over to Acker’s workshop and load it, and Smith complied. Meanwhile, defendant loaded Acker’s Volvo with personal items from Acker’s mobile home. After Acker’s truck and car were loaded, defendant *455 and Smith drove the vehicles to Rutherford County. Defendant drove the Volvo while Smith drove the truck. They left Smith’s car parked beside the road near Acker’s farm. Smith followed defendant to a logging road near Marr’s house, where they left the loaded truck. Defendant then took Smith back to Polk County in Acker’s Volvo to retrieve Smith’s car.
Defendant and Smith arrived at the victim’s farm at approximately 2:00 a.m. on 11 October 1990. Before taking Smith to the place where they had previously parked, defendant returned to Acker’s residence. Defendant found a two-and-one-half gallon gasoline can. He then told Smith to meet him at the bottom of the hill. As Smith was walking down the road, he turned and saw the mobile home in flames. Smith then ran to the car. He later asked defendant why he had burned the mobile home, and defendant stated, “To destroy any evidence.”
Smith retrieved his car and followed defendant back to Rutherford County. They left the Volvo on the logging road near Dan Marr’s residence. Afterwards, Smith drove defendant to his grandmother’s home. Defendant took the .25-caliber pistol, while Smith kept the .22-caliber rifle in his car until 13 October, when he hid it under a sofa in his parents’ living room.
On 12 October 1990, defendant and Smith discussed where to put the property they had taken from the victim’s farm. They had planned to store some of the stolen items in a barn near Dan Marr’s house, but Marr refused to let them do so. Instead, they took the truck to an abandoned house near Oak Springs Road in Rutherford County and unloaded the stolen items there. Defendant and Smith covered the stolen items with plastic bags and took the truck back to the location near Marr’s home.
Larry Marelli, who worked for the victim, testified that he drove to Acker’s mobile home at approximately 7:50 a.m. on 11 October 1990 and found it on fire. Marelli observed that the victim’s car and truck, along with certain other items, were missing and that the door to the workshop was open. After observing the scene, Marelli returned to his home to call the police. Law enforcement officers arrived at Acker’s mobile home within five minutes. At approximately 10:05 a.m., SBI Agent Mika Elliott examined the crime scene and discovered the victim’s body there. He found a two-and-one-half gallon gasoline can inside the mobile home. He also discovered that the telephone line had been cut.
On 13 October 1990, a deer hunter discovered the items of stolen property defendant and Smith had left covered by plastic bags near the Oak Springs Road site and reported it to the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Department. Thereafter, Detective R.H. Epley and Detective Jake Gamble went to the site where the property had been found. The officers also contacted Philip Doster, who directed them to the old logging road where they found the victim’s Volvo.
At approximately 6:00 p.m., Detective Epley and SBI Agent Bruce Jarvis began a surveillance of the area where the victim’s Volvo had been discovered. At about 8:00 p.m., the officers observed a car back up the road and stop near the Volvo. Defendant and Smith then got out of the car that had backed up the road. They went to the Volvo and unlocked and opened its trunk. The officers then arrested defendant and Smith.
Philip Doster testified that in October 1990, he was the manager of a mobile home complex in Rutherford County. Defendant had moved to the complex in the summer of 1990. Doster often socialized with defendant and Smith. In October, defendant offered to sell Doster a weed eater, a chain saw, and a car battery. Doster and defendant drove in Doster’s truck to two different locations in Rutherford County. At one location, Doster saw a pickup truck with tools and other goods. At the other location, Doster saw a Volvo. Defendant opened the trunk of the Volvo and showed Doster a computer and a stereo.
Doster ultimately bought the weed eater, the chain saw, and the car battery. He said that he bought the items from defendant on behalf of the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Department because the Department was interested in recovering stolen property and had promised to reimburse him for property *456 that he purchased. Doster asked defendant how he had acquired the goods in the vehicles, and defendant responded that he “had to kill a guy to get [them.]” Defendant told Doster that defendant and Smith had gone to a man’s mobile home intending to rob him. Defendant had carried a .22-caliber rifle, and Smith had carried a .25-caliber pistol. Smith had knocked on the door and told the man who answered that his truck had broken down and he needed help. As the man began to walk back down the hallway of his mobile home, defendant shot him with the rifle. The victim did not die, so defendant shot him again. Defendant then called for Smith to enter the mobile home and directed him to shoot the victim. Doster testified that either Smith or defendant told Doster that one of them shot the victim twice, once in the shoulder and once in the head. Defendant also told Doster that he and Smith had poured gasoline on the victim after they shot him and that they had then set fire to the mobile home.
Doster testified that he had warned defendant that he would tell the authorities all that he knew if he was ever questioned about what defendant had told him. Defendant had responded that he could not be prosecuted because the evidence that could convict him had been destroyed.
Doster stated that in September 1990, defendant had told him about a place owned by a millionaire from New York that he planned to “check out.” Doster later heard defendant say that he would murder someone and become rich. On another occasion, defendant told Doster that he and Smith had been to that particular man’s home and had entered the home, taken a few dollars, and left. Doster recalled defendant saying that someone was going to pick him up from the mobile home complex and take him to see the place. Doster also had seen defendant with a .22-caliber rifle a few weeks prior to the murder.
Curtis David Barker testified that he had been an inmate at the Polk County jail and had shared a cell with defendant on 13 and 14 October 1990. Barker asked defendant why he was there, and defendant replied that he had been charged with murder and arson. Defendant explained that he had been found in possession of stolen property. Barker then commented that from what he had heard, defendant could only be charged with receiving stolen goods. Defendant responded, “No, I’m guilty of it all. It was premeditated, we knew what we [were] doing when we were doing it.”
Later, defendant related to Barker that he and Smith had planned to rob a certain person’s mobile home. Defendant explained that he and Smith had been to the mobile home prior to the killing. They had realized that they would need to kill the occupant to carry out the robbery because he never left the residence for long periods of time. Defendant said that he had a .22-caliber rifle and a .25-caliber pistol. On the night of the murder, defendant and Smith watched the mobile home from the woods for a while and then approached the front door. Smith knocked on the door. When the occupant answered, Smith said that he had car trouble and asked to use the telephone. Defendant said that as Smith entered the home, he “turned around and fired two shots into the man.” The victim told them not to kill him, but defendant told Smith to “[g]o ahead and get it over with.” Next, defendant and Smith removed various items of personal property from the mobile home, placed them into the victim’s two vehicles, and drove the vehicles off the property. Defendant and Smith then returned to the mobile home, obtained gasoline from the barn, poured the gasoline on the body and throughout the mobile home, and set the mobile home on fire. On either the 15th or 16th of October, Barker reported to Deputy Sheriff James Carter what defendant had said during their conversation.
On 12 October 1990, Dr. Robert Thompson, a forensic pathologist, performed an autopsy on the victim’s body. Dr. Thompson testified that the body was burned after the victim’s death. He testified that two bullets were found in the victim’s brain. One bullet was consistent with a .25-caliber bullet, and the other was deformed to the extent that the caliber could not be determined. Dr. Thompson opined that Acker had died as a result of the gunshot wounds to the head. *457 Other evidence introduced at trial is discussed at later points in this opinion where it is relevant.
By an assignment of error, defendant contends that the trial court erred in failing to conduct an inquiry into the substance and possible prejudicial impact of a conversation between one or more jurors and two men, one of whom was a defense witness. This issue is not properly before this Court.
The record indicates that during the trial, the trial court was informed that two men had been seen talking to one or more of the jurors. The trial court warned the men that they would be jailed if they did so again. The prosecutor requested that the trial court inquire further into the matter because the prosecutor had seen one of the men talking with defense counsel earlier. The trial court declined to do so.
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