Judge rules no new new trial, sentencing hearing for convicted Hustle Mart gunman

Antwan Anthony

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – Convicted murderer Antwan Anthony is heading back to death row.

It’s now up to Sheriff Neil Elks to decide if he will discipline the department’s spokesperson after she was caught talking to a juror during the Hustle Mart murder trial.

The fate of public information officer Christy Wallace may be undetermined, but Anothony’s is sealed.

There was a smile and a handshake between him and his attorneys before Anthony left the courtroom after hearing he would not get a new trial or sentencing hearing. His attorneys Terry Alford and Phil Lane didn’t give up easily, filing an immediate appeal to the ruling, which was rejected.

“Certainly there is a sense of relief that we can move forward and go on with the trials we need to take care of,” said Kimberly Robb, district attorney.

Pitt County Sheriff’s Public Information Officer Christy Wallace was caught talking to jurors during Anthony’s sentencing hearing back in April.

Robb said it’s upsetting to know someone who works closely with the court system doesn’t understand that you can’t talk to jurors, “Frustration and disbelief that someone could have been this careless.”

Judge Robert Hobgood ruled Wallace’s actions were unacceptable but she did not offer an opinion about the defendant or about the sentence he should face.

“This contact with juror number four by Christy Wallace violated the court’s no contact order but the court finds beyond a reasonable doubt that this contact was harmless to the defendant,” said Hobgood.

Robb said this should be a learning lesson for everyone, “Never speak to jurors. That’s why they wear the badges, not to speak with them and not to have any interaction with them.”

Robb said now it’s time to prepare for the next case, Willie Whitehead. His trial starts September 12th.

Previous Story 8/2/2016:

A hearing for Hustle Mart triggerman Antwan Anthony wrapped up just before noon on Tuesday.

A new trial or sentencing hearing is what Anthony’s attorneys wanted after a public information officer was caught talking to a juror during the trial back in April.

“We heard her say how is the case going what are you all working on, how long are you going to be,” said Anthony’s attorney Phil Lane.

Closing arguments for both sides ended just before noon Tuesday at the Pitt County Courthouse.

Anthony’s attorney said jurors were bribed by Pitt County Sheriff Information Officer Christy Wallace with possible pizza if they finished soon.

“And I submit to you that there is more than enough circumstances evidence that she suggested to at least one juror that she would buy them pizza if they would get it over with so they wouldn’t have to come back on Monday or Tuesday,” Lane explained.

The state argued jurors said they never heard that statement. Yet detectives are the ones who heard Wallace say that when she was in the courtroom during the sentencing hearing.

Both sides agree Wallace should have never talked to a juror and someone should have told the judge.

“Juror number ten testified that there was no evidence or nothing said about the facts of the case or any persuasion of the case by Ms. Wallace,” Clark Everett said.

The judge will make a ruling on Anthony’s request Thursday morning at 9:30.

Previous Story 8/1/2016:

A convicted murderer is asking for a new trial, claiming jurors were influenced in their decision to find Antwan Anthony guilty.

It was a busy day inside the courtroom as about ten people, including jurors, detectives, Sheriff Neil Elks and Public Information Officer Christy Wallace took the stand.

Cameras were not allowed in the courtroom Monday.

Christy Wallace said she did approach a juror sitting outside the Pitt County Courthouse during the sentencing phase of the Anthony trial just to say hello and ask her how her family was. Wallace said she and the juror go way back but the juror told a different story.

The juror said Wallace asked her how much longer the trial was going to last and if she needed to go up to the courtroom.

Other witnesses testified they also heard similar statements from Wallace.

A detective said Wallace came in the courtroom possibly on the same day saying, “I told them I would get them pizza if they stayed longer.” Wallace said she doesn’t remember saying that.

She said after the incident, Sheriff Neil Elks told her she couldn’t be talking loud or speaking with jurors.

Anthony’s attorneys asked why Sheriff Elks or Wallace didn’t say anything to Judge Hobgood. Wallace said she didn’t think saying hi affected the case.

Wallace was the last person to take the stand Monday.

The hearing will continue Tuesday at 9:30 a.m.

Judge Hobgood said attorneys can make final statements and discuss what’s next.

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