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January 25th, 2006

The subject of my jury duty has come up a couple of times in the last two weeks, which reminded me of my not-so-recent service, and what it felt like to actually be part of deciding to put another human being in prison for 40 years. Not a decision made lightly, or easily, I might add.

I found the article below in the N&O archives at the Wake County Public Library at Cameron Village. Reading it now, I wonder if he ever got any more time. I also wonder if they ever caught, tried, and convicted the accomplice.

My next door neighbor is a laywer (I think of her as, "CSI: Neighbor.") I've asked her if she has an easy way of following up on both of them.

And, oh by the way! If you haven't been to the Cameron Village Library since they've moved back into their old building (just recently), you should go! It's been totally renovated (and wired!). It's an awesome place now!

While this trial was happening we (the jury) had no idea about all of the "priors" and "other pending charges" they had on this guy. When we read this article in the paper the day after we'd convicted him, we were astounded.

Paper: The News & Observer
Message: Convict gets 40-year term
Author: Dawn Wotapka
Date: November 29, 2001
Section: News
Page: B1

CONVICT GETS 40-YEAR TERM

RALEIGH -- Gabriel Roman Stallings, on trial for a series of armed robberies, turned to his mother Wednesday and whispered: "I ain't going to get no time. ... I didn't do it."

Twelve Wake County jurors disagreed. [ ← One of which would be me. Thank goodness I was not the foreman.]

After they deliberated for two hours, Stallings, 30, was convicted of four armed robberies and one attempted robbery. He was sentenced to at least 40 years in prison and ordered to pay his attorney, David Brannon, more than $2,000.

Stallings still faces charges --and much more prison time --in the so-called Good Samaritan robberies. Trials in those cases will take place today and later this week.

In testimony this week, four victims identified Stallings as one of the men who robbed them.

"Of course, they're going to point me out," Stallings said to his mother, Linda Copeland, 53, of Raleigh, seated behind him. "I was the only one in the courtroom."

Preston Cochran Bounds, 21, an N.C. State University student, testified that Stallings and an unidentified man approached four men just after midnight May 26 as they left the Players Retreat bar off Hillsborough Street.

According to Bounds, Stallings asked if they were nervous and pulled up his shirt to show he didn't have a weapon. The unidentified man then held a straight razor to NCSU student Thomas Stewart Lassiter's throat, Bounds said. Stallings then ordered them to drop their wallets and run, Bounds said.

Matthew Lee Baskerville said the same pair tried to rob him a few minutes later as he walked near the International House of Pancakes on Hillsborough Street.

Police are still searching for the second man involved in both cases because he is the one, witnesses said, who held the knife.

Still, jurors decided Stallings should be punished as an armed robber.

"Both of them are just as guilty even though one of them had the knife," Jeff Cruden, an assistant district attorney, told jurors in closing arguments Wednesday. "If you hunt with the pack, you're responsible for the kill."

Bounds said he wants the other man found but said he's glad that Stallings will be off the streets.

"Stallings definitely seemed like he was the brains, the organizer of the operation," he said.

The Good Samaritan cases were not combined into Wednesday's trial because they are not similar enough, a judge decided. In a string of incidents near NCSU between March and June, a man approached young men and told them his car had broken down, his mother was ill or he had just lost his job. The man would lure the victims into a parking lot or have them drive him to a secluded area, then rob them, police said.

In all, Stallings, who did not provide an address, is charged with eight other armed robberies.

Three of those robberies were combined into one trial, which continues today. Although police and witnesses were present Wednesday afternoon, the trial was postponed after Stallings began beating the wall of the holding cell and threatened to assault guards and his attorney, Cruden said.

Ready to testify against Stallings is Jon Harrison, an 18-year-old student at Wake Technical Community College.

On June 10, Harrison said, a man approached him outside Pantana Bob's bar on Hillsborough Street and said he needed a ride to retrieve jumper cables. When they arrived in a parking lot off New Bern Avenue, the man told Harrison to give him money. Harrison gave him the cash he had, about $3, and his $35 watch. The man also asked to look inside Harrison's wallet and search the car.

"I let him," he said. "I didn't want any trouble."

Harrison said he thinks Stallings, whom he glimpsed in the courtroom, is the person who robbed him. "He looks like the guy," Harrison said. "But innocent until proven guilty."

Stallings has prior convictions for common law robbery, possession of cocaine, felony breaking and entering and communicating threats, according to court records. If found guilty on all the pending robbery charges, Stallings could be sentenced to an additional 135 years in jail. It is unclear how many more trials there will be, Cruden said.

One, however, was enough to decide Stallings' fate.

"That's 40 right there," he said as he was led out of court. "I already got life."


Author: Dawn Wotapka
Section: News
Page: B1

Copyright 2001 by The News & Observer Pub. Co.



I was rushed to get to class tonight as it was the first time I went there directly from work. I did not allow enough time to anticipate traffic between Harrison Avenue and the Wade Avenue exit. You would think at 4:00... But I digress.



After class, I stopped by the STC Bake Sale, where I cavorted with the likes of Courtney, Will, and E-Ching. Good fun. Good people.

My beautiful banner had been relegated to a table cloth. But I'm not bitter...

I marketed, and sold, a few bags of my Oatmeal Scotchies while I was there. I, myself, bought one bag of those, as well as a slice of E-Ching's Banana Nut Bread.

People asked two questions about the bake sale a lot: Who's the money for? "Society for Technical Communication." What's the money for? "Happy Hour."


While I was there, Kim stopped by and mentioned that Dr. Swarts has given out the URL of my March 1, 2005 blog entry, entitled "ENG 519 Gallery Observation," to the current semester's class as an example of what they're in for. That felt good.



Robert and I had Quiznos subs for dinner.

Dancing was festive and fun tonight.

We had "going away" cards for Rob, who's going to Spain for three months, and Anthony, who's moving to Charlotte.



When we got home, Robert finished up most of the crossword puzzle from the latest Technician, and I helped with the final touches.

We cuddled while listening to some of the soundtrack from Brokeback Mountain. Warmth.

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