OXFORD, N.C. — When a North Carolina jury returns to court Wednesday, they will begin deliberating whether a Texas man convicted of murder should live or die.
The sentencing phase in the trial of Eric Campbell began Tuesday.
Campbell, 24, of Alvin, Texas, was found guilty last month for robbing and murdering a Granville County, North Carolina couple. Jermome Faulkner, 73, and Dora Faulkner, 62, were killed inside their home on Dec. 31, 2014.
Campbell and his father, Edward Campbell, were arrested in Greenbrier County, W.Va. the next day following a shoot out with State Police. Edward Campbell later killed himself in prison.
Throughout the nearly two month long trial, the defense repeatedly painted Edward Campbell as an abusive father. They said Eric went on the trip with his father from Texas to West Virginia to improve their relationship. Eric told the jury last month his father killed the Faulkners, not him. He said he believed Edward Campbell was only going to rob the couple, not kill them.
Tuesday’s hearing included testimony from Campbell’s family and friends from Texas. Defense attorney William Durham told the jury during closing arguments every witness described Eric Campbell as a “kind” person.
“They all agreed that Eric Campbell is not a sociopath. He’s not someone who routinely acts mean and then violates the rights of others. Everyone, of all parts of his life, says he treats others with kindness,” Durham said. “Despite all that abuse, despite all the vicious things that Eric Campbell suffered at the hands of his father, it did not crush all the good from him.
The defense asked the jury to grant Campbell life with mercy.
“We believe this case calls for life because of who Eric Campbell was, who he could’ve been without that common denominator interfering and who he will be for the rest of his life,” said Amos Tyndall, another defense attorney.
Prosecutors are asking jurors to impose the death penalty.
“I ask you to do justice by the Faulkners, to do justice by their family, to do justice by this community,” said Granville County, North Carolina District Attorney Mike Waters.
During closing arguments, prosecutors reminded the jury Campbell made a “conscious choice and deliberate decision” to be involved with the crime. Earlier in the trial, prosecutors said Campbell was with his father before the murders when he purchased chemicals, gasoline and other items that were used to destroy the Faulkners home. The Campbells put the Faulkners’ bodies inside a stolen truck and set the house on fire.
“He knew the gravity of all of this,” Waters said. “So ladies and gentlemen it’s not the decision that you are making. The choice is his. It’s a choice he made long ago.”
Allison Capps, Assistant District Attorney in Granville County, N.C., said Campbell did not give the Faulkners a chance to live, so he should not be allowed to live either.
“I want you to ask yourself: When on December 31, 2014 did the defendant do anything to speak life over Jerome Faulkner or Dora Faulker? The evidence shows that all there was was death there that night,” Capps said.
Waters said this was an organized murder.
“This course of conduct began in Texas with a plan. They came here to this community where they were out of money, out of gas and they decided to pick on people that they thought could not defend themselves,” he said.
The defense said no matter what the verdict is, Campbell will never live a normal life again. He will either remain locked up or be put to death.
“He’ll never again walk on a beach. He will never get married, never have children. He will spend every night of the rest of his life in a place non of us would want to spend a single night,” Durham said. “I believe that there is some room in your heart for some mercy for Eric Campbell.”
Unlike West Virginia, North Carolina is one of 31 states with a death penalty. Capps encouraged the jury to “follow the law” and to do the right thing.
“We know it’s going to be hard, but that is your duty,” she said.
The jury meets again at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.