Brookhaven detective’s surprise evidence brings halt to trial of men accused of shooting at Black FedEx driver
Published 5:47 pm Wednesday, August 16, 2023
BROOKHAVEN — A ruling by the judge that a detective withheld evidence from the prosector and the defense attorneys brought a halt Wednesday to the trial of two Lincoln County men accused of shooting at a Black FedEx delivery driver.
Judge David Strong ruled detective Vincent Fernando failed to turnover all his evidence file to the district attorney’s office before a Grand Jury indictment and also failed to share the evidence with defense attorneys. The ruling came in the first day of testimony in the case of Brandon and Gregory Case.
The men were indicted on charges of attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder and shooting into a motor vehicle driven by D’Monterrio Gibson in January 2022.
Change of plans
During testimony, Fernando produced a disk containing video of Gibson’s statements much to the surprise of District Attorney Dee Bates and the defense attorneys. After meeting in the judge’s chambers, Strong told the courtroom it would take some time to hash out what to do with the surprise evidence.
Strong said it was not the fault of the DA office or defense attorneys that the new piece of evidence was produced on the second day of trial. He ordered Fernando to turn over anything he had on the case before dismissing court for the day.
All evidence was requested by the DA’s office to be handed over in June 2022 before the case was presented to the grand jury in November 2022. The surprise evidence introduced by the detective comes weeks after a scathing report about the Brookhaven Police Department was released by the Grand Jury in July.
Objections to testimony
Fernando took the stand around 11 a.m. and testified about how he gathered evidence on January 25, 2022 the day following a shooting on Junior Trail Northeast in Brookhaven. He obtained a search warrant for Brandon Case’s residence on January 25 and executed the warrant on January 26.
Fernando testified he found 9mm shell casings in the yard. Defense attorney Terrell Stubbs, representing Gregory Case, objected to the testimony. Strong sustained the objection and it was struck from the court record. Strong dismissed the courtroom for lunch.
Upon returning from lunch at 1:20 p.m., Fernando took to the witness stand and testified he found long guns in Brandon Case’s home but no handguns. Stubbs again objected which was sustained by Strong because it didn’t bear any relevance to the case.
Fernando was able to testify he found an ammunition box of 9mm in the search.
Right course of action
Defense Attorney Terrell Stubbs cross examined Fernando and asked why he didn’t investigate the call made by Gregory Case on the day of the incident, as it came in first. Fernando explained he was not working the night the phone call came in but took on the case when Gibson filed a police report.
Stubbs said he could not understand why Gregory’s call was not investigated first. He also asked Fernando what the right course of action should be for a normal citizen if they see a suspicious vehicle.
Fernando said a person should call the police department and tell them what is going on. He testified with phone records that Gregory did not call the police department until 7:45 p.m. about 14 minutes after chasing Gibson in his truck. Three calls were made between the Cases after seeing the suspicious vehicle before one was ever made to Brookhaven Police Department, the phone records show.
Stubbs questioned Fernando again about why he didn’t investigate the call made by Gregory Case first before the shooting report made by Gibson.
“It seemed like you had this case in reverse,” Stubbs said.
A matter of accuracy
Defense Attorney Dan Kitchens, who represents Brandon Case, questioned Fernando about his testimony of a Google map image being accurate and reflecting what he saw when he visited Junior Trail on January 25. The image showed roughly the same structures but was slightly different.
Most notably, Kitchens pointed to the hardwood trees having green leaves while it would have been winter time in January when the incident occurred. Fernando testified a few new buildings had been constructed and could be shown on the map which were not there in January 2022 conflicting his testimony earlier in the day that the map was an accurate reflection of what he saw when he went and carried out his investigation.
Day three of the trial will resume Thursday at 9 a.m. Gibson was expected to testify Wednesday but it did not happen.