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Court stays Conner execution

RALEIGH – Jerry Wayne Conner has been given a new lease on life…at least for now.

Conner, found guilty of a 1990 double homicide in Gates County, was scheduled to pay for that crime at 2 a.m. on Friday where his death sentence was to be carried out by lethal injection at Central Prison in Raleigh.

However, on Wednesday, the North Carolina Supreme Court granted a stay of execution, handing down an order for additional DNA testing.

“From what I’ve been able to understand about the stay is that Conner’s defense lawyers convinced the state Supreme Court that the DNA samples taken in this particular case need to be examined using modern standards,” Gates County Sheriff Ed Webb said.

The Sheriff said the only item left undecided at this point is who will reexamine the DNA evidence collected 16 years ago at the murder scene.

“Will it be the SBI (State Bureau of Investigation) or will it be by a private firm,” quizzed Webb. “As of right now we don’t know.”

Webb added that the State Supreme Court had remanded the case to an upcoming session of Gates County Superior Court. The Sheriff said he had no idea when that hearing would be held, saying the decision is left in the hands of Gates County Superior Court Judge Richard Parker.

On Aug. 18, 1990, Conner robbed a convenience store in the Corner High community on U.S. 13 in Gates County. There, he shot and killed Minh Luong Rogers, the proprietor of the store, and then raped, shot and killed her 16-year-old daughter, Linda Rogers.

It is the DNA evidence (sperm) found on Linda Rogers that will be retested. Webb said he recalled the original DNA testing produced inconclusive results.

In November of 1990, Conner was indicted for two counts of first-degree murder, one count of first-degree rape and one count of robbery with a dangerous weapon.

His capital murder trial was held during an April, 1991 session of Gates County Superior Court where a jury found him guilty of all charges and recommended that he be sentenced to death for the two first-degree murder convictions.

The trial court imposed death sentences for the murders, a sentence of life imprisonment for the first-degree rape and a prison sentence of 40 years for robbery with a firearm.

On appeal, the court found no error in the guilt-innocence phase of defendant’s trial, but vacated defendant’s death sentences and remanded for a new capital sentencing proceeding, one held in January of 1995 in Gates County Superior Court. There, a jury again recommended sentences of death for the first-degree murders and Conner was sentenced accordingly.