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Eddie Hatcher Found Guilty Of First-degree Murder

LUMBERTON, NC – The long saga of the Eddie Hatcher murder trial came to an end today (May 17, 2001) as a guilty of first degree murder verdict was announced after four hours of deliberation by the Robeson County jury sitting on the case.

Courtroom witnesses said the Tuscarora Indian activist stared straight ahead as the verdict was read. Hatcher was also convicted of firing a weapon into an occupied dwelling, but he was cleared of the charge of attempted murder of Amilia Chavis.

Superior Court Judge Jerry Cash Martin announced Hatcher’s sentencing hearing would be held Monday, May 21. Under North Carolina law, Hatcher could face the death penalty.

Against the advice of his attorneys, Hatcher asked Judge Martin to allow that the jury only be permitted to consider first-degree murder or not guilty as possible verdicts in his trial. Martin honored Hatcher’s request after warning Hatcher that he will not be permitted to appeal his case on the grounds that the jury was not offered any offenses less than first-degree murder on which to decide.

Hatcher’s lawyers, Sue Berry and Woody Bowen, wanted second-degree murder and manslaughter verdicts to be options for jurors. Hatcher said he understood the consequences of his decision.

Hatcher, 43, was tried on charges of first-degree murder, attempted murder and shooting into occupied property. The charges stemmed from a May 31, 1999, shooting in which 19-year-old Brian McMillian was killed and 15-year-old Amilia Chavis suffered a bullet wound to the thigh.

District Attorney Johnson Britt and the state argued that Hatcher was mad at McMillian, whom he believed had broken in his home.

Hatcher’s defense attorneys hammered at a conspiracy theory during the trial, accusing law enforcement of building a trumped-up case on a “faulty foundation” to make Hatcher appear guilty.

Hatcher and fellow Tuscarora Indian Timothy Jacobs gained national attention in 1988 when the two took nearly 20 employees hostage at The Robesonian newspaper in Lumberton. Hatcher said he was trying to expose corruption in Robeson County government and law enforcement. State or federal officials never substantiated his claims.

DA Britt has said he would seek the death penalty if Hatcher were convicted of first-degree murder. The sentencing hearing Monday (May 21) will decide Hatcher’s fate.

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