Court blocks Brown’s release

Published 11:24 am Saturday, December 19, 2009

RALEIGH – For now, Faye Brown remains behind bars.

That soon may not be the case if the North Carolina Supreme Court opts not to conduct a hearing on a lower court’s ruling earlier this week to grant Brown her freedom.

Brown, formerly of Garysburg, has experienced a roller-coaster ride this week. Jailed since Sept. 2, 1975 when she and two men were arrested for the murder of NC Highway Patrol Trooper Tom Davis of Windsor, Brown was initially granted her freedom on Monday by Superior Court Judge Ripley Rand.

Later on Monday, the North Carolina Court of Appeals temporarily halted Judge Rand’s order. On Thursday, the Court of Appeals decided to reject the state’s bid to keep Brown – along with Alford Jones, convicted in 1975 for killing a Kinston man – and ordered the pair to be released as of 5 p.m. yesterday (Friday).

That decision was followed by the state’s Attorney General’s office filing a petition with the State Supreme Court in an effort to block the lower court’s ruling. By mid-afternoon on Friday, the Supreme Court halted the release, thus giving the state more time to plead their case.

If the Supreme Court opts not to proceed past this point, Brown and Jones could be soon granted their freedom.

This legal maneuvering is linked to whether or not “life” inmates qualify for good behavior/educational credits while behind bars.

In October, the State Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s ruling that a life sentence is 40 years. Upon receiving their sentences in the mid-1970’s, Brown and Jones were each given 80 years behind bars. That changed in the early 80’s when the state’s sentencing laws defined a “life” term as 40 years. Those sentenced prior to that change qualified for a retroactive reduction.

Figuring in “good behavior” merits an inmate receives while behind bars further reduces their time in prison, but North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue and other state leaders have argued that those merits were not intended for those serving life terms.

Now it’s up to the justice system to decide.

The news of Brown’s possible release first surfaced in October. Her name was on a list of 20 total inmates (all convicted of either murder or rape) that qualified for immediate release based upon the reduction in years of a life term and the good behavior credits.

Later, another seven inmates were added to that list, including Joseph Seaborn, formerly a Weldon.

Seaborn, Brown and Frankie Squire (who died in prison on Jan. 4, 2001) had just robbed a bank in Martin County when their vehicle was stopped by Trooper Davis in Williamston for running a red light. Davis had no idea of the bank robbery. He was shot with a sawed-off shotgun as he leaned down to speak with the driver.

Seaborn and Brown – originally on Death Row, but later had those sentences commuted to life behind bars – began their sentences on July 6, 1977.

Governor Perdue has vowed to continue to fight to keep these inmates behind bars.