by Jeff Taylor
This story by WBTV’s Sharon Smith caught my eye the other night. It caught us up with Iaian Evans McClellan who was on trial for the New Year’s Day 2008 murder of Gerald Nathaniel Poage. The trial did not go well for prosecutors and CMPD:
Judge Linwood Foust sanctioned the case because CMPD SWAT officers failed to turn over evidence from their database they deemed irrelevant. A veteran homicide detective also failed to request radio traffic recordings be saved. Instead, they were erased.
Judge Foust said SWAT officers would not be allowed to testify.
The case was going down the drain for prosecutors. McClellan took the plea deal three weeks into the trial.
Instead of life in prison, McClellan got a sentence which could have him out of prison in ten years with credit for time served.
Even though it helped his client, Defense attorney Norman Butler said CMPD’s handling of the evidence was inappropriate and a violation of evidence rules.
He said a suspect facing life in prison should have all the available evidence presented to him for review. “It’s not up to police to decide what’s relevant,” said Butler.
District Attorney Peter Gilchrist said his assistant district attorneys repeatedly asked for all the information available.
“My understanding of what transpired is that our ADAs believed that they had received everything from law enforcement,” said Gilchrist.
He said they did not know SWAT had a separate database, and that homicide police detectives did not seem to know that SWAT had a separate database either.
Chief Rodney Monroe said his SWAT failed to recognize the relevance of their information regarding the case. He said the case had other merits and the decision to take a plea deal was the District Attorney’s.
Leaving aside the multiple database bombshell, I immediately wondered if this case had something to do with the sudden firing of Marsha Goodenow by DA Gilchrist. By yesterday there seemed to be indications from some in the local legal community that it may well have.
Now we get this from the UPoR:
Sources told the Observer Gilchrist may have been unhappy with Goodenow over what he perceived as a lack of communication between the two over problems with some cases.
One of those cases, according to a source who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity, involved a recent plea deal given a defendant accused of killing a man at an east Charlotte apartment complex in 2008.
Iaian Evans McClellan, who has a lengthy criminal record, was charged with first-degree murder in the death of Gerald Nathanial Poage. But prosecutors, according to the source, agreed to scale back the charge to manslaughter because Charlotte-Mecklenburg police failed to turn over evidence, which weakened the prosecutors’ case.
McClellan got between nine years and 12 years in prison – far less than the lifetime sentence for first-degree murder.
Goodenow didn’t try the case but supervised the prosecutors who handled it.
OK then. But this now gets very interesting.
Goodenow is essentially taking the fall for CMPD’s failure to present all evidence to the defense — or more precisely, Gilchrist is saying — on his way out the door — that it is a firing offense to for ADAs to trust CMPD. Really? Talk about passive-aggressive. Isn’t that one hell of a story?
Or how about the curious scrubbing of McClellan’s electronic records at the Mecklenburg County jail. This is the only remaining record of the arrests and charges lodged against McClellan before the January 1, 2008 murder. As near as I can tell the Web site no longer has any record of arrests #1283278 and #1252126. We’re talking arrests and charges in 2005, 2006, and 2007 — the latter evidently coming while McClellan spent 18 months in the Mecklenburg County jail.
He was released just in time for New Year’s 2008.
It certainly appears that some of those charges were rolled into the failed prosecution which McClellen just copped a plea to excuse. For those keeping track at home that would be:
But some evidently were not — meaning they were dismissed. McClellan was transferred to Central Prison on November 4th and he will presumably be credited for the 34 months he spent awaiting trial. Figure he’ll be out in time for New Year’s 2020.