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Hearing Delays Hatcher Trial

LUMBERTON, NC -- Jury selection was interrupted Wednesday (April 11) in the Eddie Hatcher murder trial as Superior Court Judge Jerry Cash Martin heard two hours of testimony to consider whether charges should be dismissed.

Hatcher, a Tuscarora Indian of Maxton, NC, is charged with first-degree murder in the May 31, 1999, shooting death of Brian McMillan. McMillan, 19, died from a gunshot to the head and arm. Hatcher is also charged with seriously injuring Amillia Chavis in the shooting. Chavis was 15 at the time.

In October, Hatcher was found guilty of assault with a dangerous weapon in the May 19, 1999, shooting of Michael Anthony Locklear, who was 17 when he was shot outside Bud's Grocery in Maxton. Hatcher said he shot Locklear in self-defense. Locklear and McMillan were roommates. Hatcher was sentenced to 75 days in jail, which he had already served.

One of Hatcher's lawyers, Woodberry Bowen, filed a motion Feb. 6 to dismiss the McMillian murder charges. The motion accused jailers of taking away legal documents that Hatcher gathered when he was representing himself in the case. The motion hearing resumed during breaks in jury selection.

The motion says seven officers entered Hatcher's cell Jan. 30 and took a file of folders containing several confidential documents. Bowen said the missing folders were labeled: Ballistics, Witnesses, George Allen Locklear, and Robeson County Jail. A legal pad filled with Hatcher's personal journal, a personal letter, and several envelopes also were found missing, according to the motion.

The motion states that the officers' actions "violated the defendant's attorney-client privilege" and that some of the documents were "ordered specifically made confidential by this court."

Lt. Thomas Rowdy testified that a routine search of Hatcher's cell was conducted that day. Rowdy said he and the officers searched Hatcher's personal belongings looking for contraband.

Hatcher testified that the seven officers entered his cell about 3 p.m. "I asked them, 'What's this search about?' and they refused to tell me," he said. "I walked to the telephone and attempted to make a call to let someone know what was happening.," he testified. "Lt. Rowdy walked to the hallway and told Wilbert Cummings to cut my phone off."

The phone rang twice before going dead, he said.

Hatcher said he was allowed to watch the search from a few feet away, but was unable to see the entire cell from where he was sitting.

He said that he saw officers carry away his documents in a brown, paper bag that was already in his cell.

Hatcher said the missing documents were "very private" and "highly important" to the defense in the case.

The motion states that Hatcher's defense is "irreparably impaired," and that Hatcher and his counsel are "irreparably harmed and substantially impaired to conduct an effective defense in his behalf."

Investigators believe Hatcher fired a high-powered rifle several times into McMillan's home on Oxendine Road in Maxton about 10:15 p.m., May 31, 1999. Amillia Chavis was shot in the hip. She was treated and released from Scotland Memorial Hospital.

Hatcher was arrested June 1, 1999 in Hamlet. Investigators say he shot McMillan because McMillan broke into Hatcher's home.

Hatcher and another Tuscarora, Timothy Jacobs, drew international attention after holding up to 20 employees of The Robesonian newspaper hostage on Feb. 1, 1988. Hatcher and Jacobs said they were trying to draw attention to corrupt county officials. Hatcher served time in prison on the hostage charges before being paroled in 1995.

Hatcher's allegations were never confirmed.

From The Robesonian and other sources

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