Death by the River

Jurors didn’t hear crucial context in detective’s dramatic testimony

Mark Carver, during his trial.
Mark Carver, during his trial. dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

Beside the DNA, the other key evidence against Mark Carver was testimony by Detective Derek Terry of the Mount Holly Police Department. The trial judge called Terry’s testimony the turning point.

Here’s what was revealed at trial, and what wasn’t:

What jurors were told

Detective Derek Terry, of the Mount Holly Police Department, testified he was in the room when SBI agent David Crow questioned Carver on the day of his arrest.

“Did he continue to deny hearing or seeing the victim?” prosecutor Stephanie Hamlin asked.

“Yes,” Terry replied.

“But during this interview didn’t Mr. Carver actually describe the victim to you?”

“Yes, he did.”

“How did he describe the victim to you?”

“He said that she was – I believe the words he used is ‘a little thing’ or ‘a little girl.’ He described her as being little and he said that she came up to him about right here.”

Terry held his hand up to his face.

“Because he actually stood up and showed you how far she came up to him?” Hamlin asked.

“Yes,” Terry replied.

“And he indicated actually on his own body where Ms. Yarmolenko came up to on him?”

“Yes.”

“And were those his words?”

“Then he followed it with “I guess. I’ve never seen her.’ 

On cross-examination, Ratchford asked: “And Mr. Carver also said – during that interview when he was instructed by Agent Crow to stand up and show how tall Ms. Yarmolenko was – that ‘I guess. I saw it on TV’?”

“I believe so, yes, sir.”

What jurors were not told

According to Chris Mumma of the N.C. Center on Actual Innocence, who now represents Carver and has watched a video of the interrogation, it was Crow who first referred to Ira as “a little girl” and “a little ole bitty thing.” It was Crow who she “wasn’t real tall.”

Then Crow himself stood up and gestured with his hand in front of his eyes. Crow turned to Carver and asked:

“If y’all was standing up, looking at each other ... she’d be looking you right in the eyes?”

“Yeah, about there,” Carver said.

Carver is 5 foot 4. Ira was 5 foot 3

Crow told Carver to get up and show him.

Carver stood and, as directed, held his hand to the top of his eyes and said, “Probably about right there ...I guess and I don’t know... I just.... I guess.”

Leland: 704-358-5074

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