The prosecution’s triple murder case against Justin Hurd ended Wednesday on perhaps its strongest note: the testimony of two experts who say Hurd’s DNA was found at both crime scenes of the 2008 slayings.
Hurd’s defense team, which announced late in the day that it will not present a case of its own, attacked the testimony from police DNA analysts Sheree Enfinger and Aby Moeykens, hoping to plant questions in the jury members’ minds about whether the evidence had been mishandled or inaccurately interpreted.
Attorneys Alan Bowman and Carl Grant also took turns asking Superior Court Judge Robert Ervin to dismiss the charges against their client. They said Assistant District Attorneys Clayton Jones and Reed Hunt had failed to reach the standard of evidence needed.
“The State of North Carolina has presented nothing that proves Mr. Hurd participated in any offense whatsoever,” said Bowman, a veteran New Jersey defense attorney.
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Ervin refused. Closing arguments could begin as early as Thursday morning. If convicted, Hurd faces a possible death sentence.
Hurd, 35, is accused of kidnapping, arson and three counts of first-degree murder in connection with the Feb. 4, 2008, slayings of Kinshasa Wagstaff, her live-in boyfriend Kevin “Fergie” Young and her 18-year-old niece Jasmine Hines.
Hurd’s alleged accomplice, Nate Sanders, was shot to death in Cincinnati that fall.
Prosecutors say Hurd and Sanders surprised Young, a reputed drug dealer, and Wagstaff in her north Charlotte home. They were found shot and/or stabbed. Police say whoever killed the pair also set Wagstaff’s home on fire.
Hines was found in Huntersville, with Young’s Toyota Camry parked nearby. Prosecutors say the teen was shot in the car and again as she ran barefoot just off Beatties Ford Road.
Investigators took a DNA sample from the Camry’s steering wheel. Tuesday, Enfinger told the jury the sample matched Hurd’s DNA. She said the odds of someone else matching the DNA sample are more than 1.22 trillion to 1.
Moeykens testified that Hurd’s genetic footprint showed up on four water bottles found in a trash bag stowed in Wagstaff’s SUV.
Bowman, however, got both DNA experts to acknowledge that they did not know the history of the samples they tested: where they had been found, how many people had handled and possibly contaminated them, and how long they had been on the steering wheel and the bottles.
Bowman also challenged Enfinger on her choice of words. In her 2009 report on the steering wheel sample, she wrote that Hurd’s DNA “could not be excluded” as a match. Wednesday, she testified Hurd’s DNA is a match.
Why the difference? Bowman asked.
Her report was based on scientific findings, Enfinger said, while her testimony included her opinion on what the findings showed.
“So the science is a little more reliable than your opinion?” Bowman asked.
Enfinger countered: “My opinion is based on the science and my experience.”