Crime & Courts

Defendant sought voodoo healer’s help during trial tied to killing of Charlotte protester

Defense lawyers Friday dropped their motion to replace the judge presiding over the murder trial of Rayquan Borum after the defendant made a call from jail in which he appeared to threaten the judge.

Borum is accused of shooting and killing fellow protester Justin Carr during demonstrations in uptown Charlotte after a police shooting in September 2016.

The trial stopped cold in its second week Wednesday when prosecutors revealed that Borum had appeared to threaten Superior Court Judge Gregory Hayes in a Feb. 20 call from jail, while jurors for his trial were still being selected. “I need him gone,” Borum said in the call.

But prosecutor Glenn Cole said Friday that Borum’s mother, who received the call, offered another explanation: Her son wanted her to get in touch with a spiritualist in northern Florida to “pray against” Hayes and others, including two Charlotte-Mecklenburg police detectives and a witness who testified against Borum.

Borum had also talked about “voodoo” in other calls from jail, Cole told Hayes, and had tried to raise money to pay a voodoo healer in Raleigh.

“What was being sought after here was a magical remedy to the defendant’s current position,” Cole said. Police detectives say jail inmates often believe in occult solutions, Cole added.

Hayes, in comments with the jury out of the courtroom, said he’s able to continue to preside over the trial but admitted Borum’s call rattled him.

The judge’s initial reaction to hearing the recorded call “was really concern ... for my family,” he said. He said he had no contact with Charlotte-Mecklenburg police after they began investigating the call.

The jury returned to the courtroom at about 9:30 a.m. Friday. Jurors won’t be told about Borum’s call and its aftermath.

The interruption in the trial came Wednesday as Borum’s lawyers were to start cross-examining a key witness.

Federal inmate Kendell Bowden has testified that he spent most of the night of the shooting with Borum and saw him twice point a gun. The weapon failed to fire the first time, he said, but moments later Borum pointed the gun behind him and fired without looking.

Mark Simmons, one of Bowden’s defense attorneys, asked Bowden why he told police that Borum shot at police, if he actually wasn’t looking when he fired the gun.

“The first time he aimed the gun was at the police,” Bowden said. “I don’t think your mind changed in two seconds or three seconds.”

Prosecutors have emphasized that no one has promised Bowden anything in exchange for his testimony, but Bowden testified Wednesday that a deal “would help.”

Simmons asked him about that Friday, and Bowden referenced the jail uniform he wore on the stand.

“If you were sittin’ here in orange, wouldn’t you be hoping for something?” he asked.

Two officials with CMPD’s crime scene unit also testified Friday, describing how Borum’s house and car looked on the day of his arrest.

The gun and the bullet that allegedly killed Justin Carr have not been found, but a 9mm cartridge casing was found near the scene in uptown Charlotte, according to CMPD.

The CSI witnesses said 9mm bullets were found near Borum’s ID card in a car and on a mantelpiece in his house, and a box that could have held a 9mm pistol was found in the house.

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Jane Wester is a Charlotte native and has been covering criminal justice and public safety for The Charlotte Observer since May 2017.
Bruce Henderson writes about transportation, emerging issues and interesting people for The Charlotte Observer. His reporting background is in covering energy, environment and state news.